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Corey Wilkes: Chi-City Swagger

Corey Wilkes

When musicians are as versatile as Corey Wilkes, the sky is the limit when it comes to choosing which direction to take on a debut album. The 29-year-old Chicago native has employed his crackling tone and improvisational swagger to a handful of forward-thinking jazz ensembles, including cornetist Rob Mazurek’s Exploding Star Orchestra and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and has collaborated with maverick artists like Tortoise and broken-beat genius I.G. Culture. Wilkes’ comfort level at playing in different idioms recalls ’60s-era Freddie Hubbard, who played on hard-bop sessions led by Art Blakey and J.J. Johnson, among others, then rocked it on landmark LPs by Andrew Hill and Eric Dolphy.

When it came to deciding what he wanted to do on his maiden release, Wilkes originally aimed for a more straight-ahead session, but says Delmark Records encouraged him to record between 80 and 90 percent of his original compositions. Delmark’s persuasion led to Drop It, a hard-hitting disc that differs greatly from most of Delmark’s postbop and free-jazz discs in that it finds Wilkes borrowing rhythms from R&B and hip-hop for his tunes. “Most of the things that I write for the group that I was planning on recording with were not avant-garde or straight-ahead pieces,” Wilkes explains. “This [disc] just reflects the style of music that I’ve been writing recently.”

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