Dave Wilson Quartet – Spiral – Summit

by | Aug 11, 2010 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Dave Wilson Quartet – Spiral – Summit DCD 544, 61:38 ****:

(Dave Wilson – tenor and soprano saxophone; Phil Markowitz – piano; Tony Marino – bass; Adam Nussbaum – drums)

Some jazz recordings seem produced to fit specific kinds of listeners or audiences: avantgarde, traditional, pop-oriented, soul jazz and others. Pennsylvania-based saxophonist Dave Wilson does not create jazz in an attempt to complement all tastes but nevertheless one listen to Wilson’s third album as leader, Spiral, and it becomes evident Wilson makes jazz that can be satisfying to several types of fans: he does not jump from one genre to another, but has put together an hour’s worth of jazz that is engaging, confident and rewarding.

Wilson wrote six of the 11 tracks and despite some unusual choices in cover material, he gives the project a cohesive unity. It is not often someone can hear a Grateful Dead country rocker and a lilting Latin number by guitarist Toninho Horta on the same record.

However, Wilson’s self-penned cuts are the meat and potatoes of this outing and reveal an artist who melds technical proficiency with responsive composing. The up-tempo title track is a suitable opener: it flies, leaps and definitely swings. Wilson’s tenor sax is fiery and heated and he is evenly matched by the fast-paced rhythms by bassist Tony Marino and drummer Adam Nussbaum, both notable pros: Marino has backed everyone from Zoot Sims to Kenny Werner while Nussbaum’s resume includes stints with Stan Getz, the Brecker Brothers and James Moody.

Wilson’s amiable side is displayed during sprightly “Summer Breezes” and the friendly mid-tempo “Ocean Blue,” a flowing piece that has a slight south of the border prance: pianist Phil Markowitz lays down a bouncing solo near the halfway point which might remind folks of his early connection to Chet Baker.

Wilson and his foursome get moodier on “Movin’ On,” which begins with a brooding D minor arrangement highlighted by Wilson’s soulful tenor sax: there is no doubt this is a tale of departure and unquestionable goodbyes. But before the seven-minute nugget wraps up, the quartet pulls together and lightens the atmosphere to furnish a hint of possible reconciliation and hope.

Wilson has a gift for picking unique covers. Deadheads may take a step back when hearing the rendition of outlaw narrative “Friend of the Devil.” No Grateful Dead version can compare to Wilson’s substantially quicker, devil-may-care translation. The biggest surprise is an anthemic interpretation of Creed’s “My Own Prison,” the Christian-themed hit for the earnest post-grunge group. “My Own Prison” features Wilson’s aggressive tenor and his toughest blowing. The other band members augment Wilson’s nervous tone: Marino’s bass plummets and dive bombs around Nussbaum’s heavy rock-inclined beat and Markowitz delivers a rumbling keyboard quality.  On the flip side are the two closing numbers. First there is Horta’s pretty and lightly grooving “Francisca,” which has a relaxing intimate pose, and has previously been performed by Aaron Goldberg, Fred Hersch and others. Wilson ends with a likable venture through Ambrosia’s Top-40 soft-rock single “(You’re the) Biggest Part of Me.” While this is not be on par with the albums finer moments, Wilson’s warm soprano sax and Markowitz’s supple piano impart a reasonable conviviality.


1. Spiral
2. Elm
3. Ocean Blue
4. Friend of the Devil
5. Summer Breezes
6. My Own Prison
7. Movin’ On
8. Like GS 2
9. Remembering
10. Francisca
11. (You’re the) Biggest Part of Me

— Doug Simpson

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