Cd_anthony-wilson_span3
02/08/12

Anthony Wilson
Seasons: Live At the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Goat Hill

Seasons is best approached as a DVD release with bonus audio CD, not vice versa. The April 2011 performance features four guitarists (Anthony Wilson, Steve Cardenas, Julian Lage and Chico Pinheiro) on gorgeous, custom acoustic archtop guitars built by luthier John Monteleone. (The instruments were on display in the Met’s “Guitar Heroes” exhibit earlier this year.) With each part of Wilson’s four-movement Seasons suite, the leaders—and guitars—rotate. There’s no knowing who plays what without visual aids.

The suite itself, commissioned by Monteleone, is a winning, eclectic piece. It varies its styles to capture seasonal moods: Pinheiro nimbly leads a samba on “Spring,” for example, and “Autumn” features Lage in a wistful folk ballad. However, each movement has a cadenza that echoes themes from the previous movement, binding them together without stepping on the surprises. “Spring” and the bluegrass “Summer” are the most lyrical and memorable (though the latter bears an unfortunate resemblance to “Dueling Banjos”). “Autumn,” though more challenging, compensates with its sweetness as well as an expressive valedictory solo by Cardenas. He also leads on the opening “Winter,” dissonant and austere to the point of being avant-garde; the movement locates its main theme in an off-kilter descending figure that’s simultaneously discomfiting and an earworm.

Wilson, who leads on “Summer,” finds other ways to dominate the full suite, whether in a prominent solo on “Spring,” or closing “Autumn” with a “Winter” recapitulation. This isn’t a complaint: It’s his piece, and his work is superlative, as is everyone’s. The CD is filled out with four solos and an ensemble take on Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game.” All are nice, Lage’s “April Kisses” especially, but essentially Easter eggs.

Originally published in January/February 2012
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