Chuck Wilson – Echo Of Spring – Arbors ARCD 19206, 71:09 [Distr. by Allegro] ****:
(Chuck Wilson – alto sax, clarinet; Howard Alden – guitar; Joel Helleny – trombone; Murray Wall – bass; Tom Melito – drums; Diva Goodfriend-Koven – alto flute on track 3 )
If the name Chuck Wilson does not come immediately to mind when considering alto sax players, don’t be alarmed, you are probably not alone. Since he started to play professionally in the late 1970s, he has, for the most part, been buried in the reed section of various bands, including those of Buddy Rich, Gerry Mulligan, Benny Goodman, although latterly he participated as a sideman with the Howard Alden-Dan Barrett Quintet. This, his first album as a leader, is entitled “Echo Of Spring”, and is being released some dozen years after its original recording date.
The tune selection covers all the requisite bases from jazz standards, to pop tunes, to Brazilian music, and although Wilson is ostensibly the leader, it is Howard Alden’s guitar work that is the glue holding the session together. The lovely Tadd Dameron piece “On A Misty Night” is a perfect example of Alden’s guitar supporting the introductory harmonic framework, and then Wilson ‘s alto contributing a couple of choruses with Alden shoring up the background. On the title track “Echo Of Spring”, Wilson switches to clarinet, and then he and Alden engage in some fine interplay, with Diva Goodfriend-Koven providing the alto flute accompaniment. The Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona wrote “The Breeze And I” using the Spanish song “Andalucía” as its genesis. In 1955 Caterina Valente took the song to No. 13 on Billboard’s pop list. This version is all Chuck Wilson, done in a Latin frame.
The trumpeter Lee Morgan provides the structure for two cuts, firstly “Caliso” and then “The Joker”. The former is taken in a calypso tempo with the entire group joining in, but with Joel Helleny’s trombone showing the way. The latter evolves in a bopish vein with Wilson in the lead. Any disc of jazz music would not be complete without a couple of Ellington/Strayhorn originals and this one is no exception. First, the lovely ballad “Isfahan” is used as a showcase for Wilson, with Joel Helleny lying out, and Alden featured on a seven-string nylon string guitar. ”Upper Manhattan Medical Group” has the the group delivering its swinging version of the tune, and each member shows up with interesting solos.
Like a good wine, this session has aged well, and deserves recognition.
TrackList: You And The Night And The Music; On A Misty Night; Echo Of Spring; Caliso; Caminhos Cruzados; Isfahan; The Joker; Turnaround; The Breeze And I; The Blessing; Upper Manhattan Medical Group; Goodbye.
— Pierre Giroux