Being the son of a world-renowned composer-orchestrator has its advantages and disadvantages. On the downside, there’s the intimidation factor of following in your father’s footsteps. On the upside, you’ve got someone close to home to help you with problems that might crop up with your own charts. For guitarist-composer-arranger and bandleader Anthony Wilson, being the son of Gerald Wilson has been more of the latter; like having Stephen Hawking around to help you with your physics homework.
“Even though I have many other influences and people who I’ve loved in the field of arranging and composing, he towers above them all,” says Wilson of his famous father. “So for me to start on this path, it can be a little bit daunting knowing what my dad did. But it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. And it’s reassuring to know that I can call on him if I’m having a problem with the writing.”
Wilson, who took top prize in the 1995 BMI/Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Composers Competition, showcases a matured vision on his impressive self-titled debut for MAMA Records. A well-crafted document of his imaginative writing for nine-piece ensemble, it also highlights his own warm, clear-toned, Wes-influenced guitar playing (1963 Gibson ES-345 stereo guitar) on seven originals, including the infectious opener “Fargas Shuffle” and the lovely waltz “Monsignor” along with covers of Duke Ellington’s “Do Nothing ’Til You Hear From Me” and Lucky Thompson’s “The Parisian Knights.”
There’s a touch of Horace Silver’s funky influence on “The New Fawn-Do!” and a touch of the blues on “Remington Ride,” a tune written by pedal steel player Herb Remington of Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys and later made into an instrumental hit by the late, great Texas guitarist Freddie King. Elsewhere, stylistic elements of Gil Evans and Oliver Nelson can be heard but Gerald Wilson’s influence predominates. “I hear it in everything,” says Anthony. “Just harmonically, the ideas that he’s given me about chord structure, counterpoint and voicings...it’s everywhere on all of those tunes.”