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Gerald Wilson Orchestra: Monterey Moods

Gerald Wilson has had a long association with the Monterey Jazz Festival. His orchestras have appeared there 10 times since 1963. Monterey Moods is the third piece that he has been commissioned to write for the festival. It is a seven-part suite about joy. (Wilson goes to Monterey every year whether he is playing or not, and loves its “beautiful setting and the romance.”) He gives the suite unity by threading a little three-note fanfare from the diatonic scale throughout its seven different “moods.”

This album lacks the sweep and majesty of Wilson’s best recordings of the ’60s and ’70s, but the charts are graceful, the section work is clean, and the joy is real. Wilson has to find solo space for so many fine musicians (the band here is his New York “adjunct orchestra,” an all-star ensemble) that most solos are short. But Terell Stafford, Antonio Hart and Steve Wilson maximize their allocated moments, and there are occasional opportunities for players to stretch out.

Hubert Laws is a “special guest,” and his solo on “Ballad” is an elegantly traced, complete, spontaneous form. One of the album’s highlights is the only standard, a slow, sonorous arrangement of “I Concentrate on You.” Gerald’s son Anthony Wilson floats over it in a long meditation with many digressions, in that luminous, round, organic sound that he gets from the electric guitar.

Originally Published