One of the tracks on Sassy, the Lennon-McCartney tune "Here, There and Everywhere," says much about Ed Wiley's fourth release for Swing Records. The album was compiled from three sessions recorded between 1999 and 2000 in Brooklyn, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and mixed in two Washington, D. C., studios. Not surprisingly the results are uneven.
To Wiley's credit, the one constant is his big, soulful Texas tenor. The other constants, despite an occasional clash of styles, include the adventurous minds of trumpeter Nicolas Payton, pianist Sir Roland Hanna and guitarist Mark Whitfield.
Compare styles in the two versions of the title tune-a truly sassy line-that Wiley wrote in honor of Sarah Vaughan. B-3 organist Joey DeFrancesco propels the first version, while the second, lower and slower, relies on Whitfield's guitar, but that soul-filled, down-home cushion is missing.
Elsewhere, "Room 608," a tricky bop line by Horace Silver, finds alto player Donald Harrison stealing some of the thunder from Wiley. It's not meant to be a cutting session; Wiley is consistently generous with stretch-out room for his sidemen. "Lazarus" is interesting in that it begins with solos and ends with the written head for the ensemble.
Included in four front lines is trombonist Al Grey, but he solos only on "No Greater Love." Good to hear his Vic Dickenson-
inspired humor, but also bittersweet: he died before the CD was released. Overall, Wiley can be proud of this release, but he shouldn't stray too far from his roots.