For The Blue & Green Project, saxophonist and composer Jack Wilkins drew inspiration from the rich Appalachian Mountain culture and environment.
The result is a set of vibrant instrumental compositions that meld the musical inspiration of American roots music, including blues, gospel, and jazz (the blue element), with the spirit of the region's people, traditions, and environment (the green element).
Wilkins, who serves as director of the jazz studies program at the University of South Florida, has assembled a large supporting cast of musicians that cycle in and out depending upon the song.
The album kicks off with "Song of the Anvil," a composition inspired by a field recording of blacksmiths and the language created by their anvils when they forged hot metal into shape. The rhythm of their strikes is a form of music that Wilkins builds upon using the bursts of his saxophone and the help of his fellow musicians.
There's also "Death Rattle," a dark, moody composition based on the death ballads that are part of the Appalachian culture. "A set of verses from various death ballads is used as inspirations," explains Wilkins. "Each soloist presents a verse and then proceeds to 'shake the death rattle,' improvising as the next soloist presents their verse. By the end of the piece, the rattle is a roar as the soloists collectively rage against their impending doom."
On "Black Bucket Stomp," Wilkins combines elements of an old coal miners' blues song with the joyful spirit of New Orleans. He is aided by Tom Brantley on trombone and Jay Coble on trumpet in capturing the exuberance of a second line.
The 10-minute long "River Run" attempts to take listeners on a whitewater river adventure. The soloists, especially Jon Metzger on vibes, capture the sense of moving waters in their improvisations.
Wilkins has found fertile ground in Appalachia. But, he is not trying to re-do the region's traditional music. This is not an attempt to be a new traditionalist. Instead, what Wilkins found was inspiration, and he's taken that and used it to create his own jazz compositions flavored with other musical forms.