Brandon Wright – Boiling Point – Posi-Tone PR 8063 – 55:17 **** (4/20/2010)
(Brandon Wright, tenor sax; Alex Sipiagin, trumpet; David Kikoski, piano; Hans Glawischnig, bass; Matt Wilson, drums)
You can tell when a jazz label is serious about helping an artist with their debut release. You stand the best chance of success when you let your newbie use his own compositions and not rely solely on jazz standards. (“Let’s see what he can do with Lover Man.”) Let your musician show his composing talent as well as whether he can blow his horn.
Surround your future star with established veterans who can both blend and comp behind the leader, yet when it is either ensemble playing or showing their talent during solos, they are fully ready to be team players.
Well, Posi-Tone has done things right with tenor saxist, Brandon Wright. Top flight sidemen from the Mingus Big Band – pianist David Kikoski, trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, and bassist Hans Glawischnig – are here. First call New York drummer supreme Matt Wilson can, and does play drums for a myriad of players, both inside and out, as well as lead his own groups.
Wright won the 2009 ASCAP Young Composer Award, so including five of his own compositions out of the eight tracks on his CD, Boiling Point, is entirely appropriate. Free Man opens the CD with a hard bop flavor. After the opening intro, Brandon immediately shows his blowing skills, with a mature hard attack. Sipiagin steps up and brings to mind Freddie Hubbard, while matching Wright’s intensity. David Kikoski’s solo shows why he is such an integral part of the Mingus Band as when he plays you don’t miss the horns-his touch is light, yet sparkling, and keeps pace with the front line before Wright and Sipiagin re-enter with the theme.
Drift shows Wright’s lyrical side and Sipiagin’s solo has a burnished quality that is deeply pleasing. Matt Wilson’s presence is felt as his cymbal work and drum fills add flavor and tone. Odd Man Out is further proof that Wright’s ASCAP award was well deserved, as he has great talent with the hard bop idiom that will please lovers of straight ahead jazz. Once again Alex Sipiagin’s solo makes him the center of focus, as he has stepped into the role of a commanding artist, for whom you eagerly wait to solo.
The title track is apropos as Brandon is hard-charging before Kikoski’s fleet hands up the ante, and Wilson pushes Wright into Coltrane territory. The obligatory ballad, Here’s That Rainy Day, shows Wright to be a more than capable balladeer with that warm hearty tone that indicates he can wring out the emotion that a jazz standard demands. My favorite track on Boiling Point is another Wright-penned composition, Castaway. It has a true 1960s Blue Note feel, led by Sipiagin again, with a take no prisoners strut, and propelled by Matt Wilson to a feverish pitch, before Wright lowers the temperature with a bluesy flourish. The rhythm section also shines on this extended number.
Posi-Tone has a winner on its hands with Boiling Point. Nick O’Toole has done another superb job engineering a crisp mix where all band members’ talents are fully presented. Brandon Wright has a bright future, and Posi-Tone has pointed him in the right direction with a classy debut CD.
TrackList: Free Man, Drift, Odd Man Out, Boiling Point, Here’s That Rainy Day, Castaway, Interstate Love Song, You’re My Everything
– Jeff Krow