Steve_wilson-passages_span3
October 2000

Steve Wilson
Passages
Stretch

Steve Wilson's latest album, Passages, is no masterpiece, but its elegant, durable compositions and, most importantly, Wilson's supreme command on the alto and soprano saxophones and flutes make it a pleasure to listen to.
Passages is a populist bop album that lacks any overarching ambitions, but one that sublimely boasts stylistic elasticity, incorporating samba, R&B and '70s fusion. The jubilant "Song for Anna" finds Wilson's flute sambaing over Bruce Barth's optimistic, melodic Fender Rhodes accompaniment. Even though "Eye of the Beholder" doesn't sound like a fusion tune, the compositional design bears a resemblance to Wayne Shorter's underrated mid-1980s' work. On "Grace," Wilson slyly whispers some vintage R&B, slow-jam naughtiness on flute and alto, while Nicholas Payton fogs up the melodic contours with his smoldering flugelhorn asides. Wilson's R&B swerve veers towards body-rock funk on "Q-B-Rab" (sort of barbecue spelled backwards) and even when the improvisations get more avant-gardish, the groove still sticks to your ribs thanks to Ed Howard's boogie-down bass lines and Adam Cruz's lickity-stick second-line drumming.
With off-the-hook musicality, compositional clarity and passionate expositions, Passages is a fine work that indicates a Wilson masterpiece is forthcoming.

Originally published in October 2000
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