The Anthony Wilson Trio – Jack of Hearts – Groove Note stereo-only SACD GRV1046-3 ****:
(Anthony Wilson, elec. guitar; Larry Goldings, Hammond B-3 & celeste; Jeff Hamilton or Jim Keltner, drums)
There aren’t very many jazz albums being released as SACDs, and this one doubly caught my eye because I thought it was the first multichannel release from the Singapore-based Groove Note, which has released previously stereo-only SACDs. The production was done by the label’s CEO Ying Tan and by veteran audiophile jazz and blues producer Joe Harley. I noted it was recorded live direct to two track analog tape, so I tried it out and discovered there are no surround channels although the SACD Surround logo is emblazoned on both the jewel box and actual disc. Ah, well. Those in possession of one of the super-high-end stereo-only SACD decks (which have now reached prices the equal of the most luxury automobile) will regard this as a pro rather than a con.
The ten tracks consist of three originals by Wilson – son of legendary band leader Gerald Wilson – plus two he wrote in collaboration with his B-3 cohort here, Larry Goldings. Duke Ellington is the source of two of the tracks, there’s one from Coleman Hawkins, and even one from Van Dyke Parks. The compelling theme from Polanski’s film masterpiece Chinatown is the lengthiest track at over eight minutes.
The opening Mezcal rides on a catchy rhythmic undercurrent that won’t stop. Both Ellington tunes are rarely heard, with his Carnegie Blues given a relaxed treatment with a nice solos from Goldings and Wilson. A Latin flavor suffuses the bouncy Vida Perdida Acabou, and Van Dyke Parks’ Orange Crate Art becomes a slowly loping lovely ballad. A number of the tunes seem to have a more insistent minimalist character than I’ve heard on Wilson’s previous albums, as in the Japanese punk sound of Harajuku and the annoying, plodding drum punctuations of the final track, Homecoming. Sounds like the homecoming of a soldier who lost a leg. I’m glad it’s the final track so I can easily skip it after this.
TrackList: Mezcal, Jack of Hearts, Hawkeyes, Carnegie Blues, Theme from Chinatown, Vida Perdida Acabou, Orange Crate Art, Harajuku, Zweet Zursday, Homecoming.
— John Henry