Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gerald Wilson's Nancy Jo: Liner Notes (from album New York New Sound)

The liner notes for New York New Sound have this to say, inter alia: “Composer-arranger-trumpeter-band leader-film scorer-educator, Wilson boasts enough hyphens to flourish in the Big Orange and enough energy to ignite any of those specialties in the Big Apple. Added to those talents, he has the advantage of hindsight plus synergy to put all genres in perspective. Gerald has graced the scene for 85 years! And he remains as lean and as sharp as that exclamation point. Wilson not only knows all about jazz . . . his life virtually covers the history of jazz. He has played with and written for the cream of the crop, and his big band, thanks to his big book, has consistently pushed the envelope, creating boppish ideas before it was hip to be hep.

“No, he did not study with Buddy Bolden, but he proudly lists Jimmie Lunceford, Count Basie and Duke Ellington in his resumé. He, Willie Smith and Clark Terry were among the first blacks to play in the U.S. Navy Band; Wilson has written well over 100 arrangements just for Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles and Nancy Wilson; he even wrote a classical work for the L.A. Philharmonic at the request of music director Zubin Mehta; he's now teching at UCLA. (In his spare time he's a brain surgeon.)

“There's East Coast Jazz, there's West Coast Jazz, and Mack Avenue Records' head honcho, Stix Hooper, founder of the Houston-bred Crusaders, swears there's Gulf Coast Jazz. Face it, while there are many seething centers of swinging sounds (New Orleans, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, etc.) seemingly the two main cosmopolitan convergences where the art of jazz is being refined and re-defined 24/7 is New York and Los Angeles, which brings us to an under appreciated genius who has conquered both: Gerald Wilson.

“For this album, the only non-laid back resident of L.A. Was in a New York state of mind, and came up with a session that sounds like it was written by a cat half his age. Between the jet-propelled bookends of “Milestones” and “Nancy Jo,” are outstanding examples of Gerald's thick-textured wide voicings providing plenty of stretch-out room for such stellar soloists as Jimmy Owens, trumpet; Luis Bonilla, trombone; Jesse Davis, alto sax; Jimmy Heath, tenor sax; and Kenny Barron, piano.

. . .

“'New York, New Sound' turned out to be quite a big band bash. Hooper correctly labeled it 'a party.' Another participant, pianist Renee Rosnes, summed up the leader's charisma most eloquently: 'If I were to watch a silent film of Gerald conducting, I would still be able to experience the swing of the music, his presence is that powerful.'”

The New York New Sound recording features solos by Sean Jones on trumpet, Jesse Davis on alto saxophone, Anthony Wilson (the composer-arranger-director's son) on guitar, and Kenny Barron on piano.

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