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Spiral by Dave Wilson Quartet

If you have ever spent any time in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area, and you like jazz, chances are you have stumbled across this treasure trove of talented musicians. I have had the pleasure of hearing a few of the region's offerings, both in the area and on CDs. Dave Wilson is one of those musicians and the latest CD, Spiral, by the Dave Wilson Quartet is among those treasures.

Spiral is Wilson's third and latest effort. Wilson brings together a band of first call sidemen including Phil Markowitz on piano, Tony Marino on bass, and Adam Nussbaum on drums. These talented musicians make first quality work out of the Wilson compositions and arrangements. Spiral gains momentum from the very first cut. The title cut allows for the full expression of the band's individual talent and group synergy. The following cut is a more cerebral arrangement of the Ritchie Bierach composition, "Elm." Wilson's soprano work is notable here, primarily for its expansive range of expression within the melody and changes. One of my personal favorites is "Ocean Blue," a subtle, swinging number that has summer jazz festival written all over it. The tune is overflowing with the essence of Stan Getz. I could easily be sitting in my lawn chair at Fort Adams in Newport listening to this one! The inclusion of the Greatful Dead song Friend of the Devil was a pleasant surprise. Being a big fan of the Dead, I found it interesting to hear Wilson's interpretation of the song. In true classic Dead form, this song in the hands of a jamming musician becomes their own while still belonging to the Dead! I found the soloing on this cut to be an honest compliment to the tune.

Beyond the Dead, Wilson delivers a sophisticated mix of melody and style on "Spiral." Another tune that clearly grabbed my attention was "Summer Breezes." Perhaps it is the season for outdoor festivals, perhaps it is the elements of illusions of the light and airey atmosphere provided by the soprano sax of Wilson, but this cut is one that I could listen to for hours. It is a relaxing but fulfilling composition.

Throughout this CD the sidemen are ever-present contributors to the intent of the arrangements and honor the emotion of the compositions. A standout performer on this CD is Markowitz on piano, a constant compliment to the lead work of Wilson, tying the rhthym section to the lead with a sensitivity that only a master can provide.

The inclusion of Creed's My Own Prison and the amazing arrangement that Wilson puts on this cut seals the deal on my appreciation of his work. If you are not familiar with this tune, check it out, listen to the emotion of the original. Then when you have begun to understand the quality of that song, come back to Wilson's arrangement and bask in the brilliance of this arrangement. I think it is a sign of a solid musician when you can shift genre with a track and have it still be significant.

Movin On follows and further represents the skill in composition and execution that Wilson brings to this work. I share the opinion with Dave on this being my favorite cut on the CD. I determined this because it is his own composition, it has the best sax solo on the recording, and it is drenched in elements that make it an instant classic of tenor sax jazz. I also enjoyed Markowitz's soloing and the solid rhythm work of Marino and Nussbaum. Classic quartet work!

Rolling off of Movin On into another Wilson original Like GS 2, is like sliding off sheet ice onto beach sand, just a different groove! The song is a reworking of the structure of the Scott Lafarro tune 'Gloria's Step', made famous by the immortal Bill Evans in the classic 1961 recording "Live at the Vanguard". This cut features a sweet bass solo by Marino and some very impressive brush work by Nussbaum, that is as musical as a drummer can get! Not since Ed Thigpin have I heard brushes brought to a tune with such aplumb. This song swings!

The closing three tracks are sensitive, and feature Wilson in a quiet mood. Beginning with Remembering, a Wilson original and continuing with Francisica, by Toninho Horta and wrapping up with an arrangement of a pop standard by the band Ambrosia entitled, You're the Biggest Part Of Me. Wilson's beautiful ballad is followed by the haunting melodies of Horta's tune and closes on a particularly mediocre note with the Ambrosia cut. Had it not been for the well executed tenor sax work by Wilson, I would have written that last cut off. What I found was that the group treated this cut as they had all the others with a degree of sensitivity that transcended the original composition and was uplifted by Wilson's own arrangement of the tune.

"Spiral" is Wilson's third effort and demonstrates a growing competence in the role of leader, composer and arranger. The work provides a perfect venue for demonstrating the talent of Dave Wilson and his sidemen. Cuts on this CD rank among the most entertaining jazz saxophone works I have heard. The Dave Wilson Quartet has delivered a most memorable effort with "Spiral".

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Dave Wilson Quartet
  • CD Title: Spiral
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2010
  • Record Label: Summit Records
  • Rating: Five Stars
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