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Jack Wilkins: Reunion

This disc reunites the musicians-guitarist Jack Wilkins, saxophonist Michael Brecker, trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist Eddie Gomez, and drummer Jack DeJohnette-featured on Merge, recorded for Chiaroscuro in 1977. Since then, more than 20 years later, each has become one of the most respected players on his instrument. And while Wilkins is the leader of this date, the other players get plenty of blowing room, and Wilkins, Gomez and Randy Brecker all contribute original material.

On Wilkins’ grooving, upbeat “Kiwi Bird” the Breckers step up with dynamic, searching solos that set the stage for a guitar excursion that includes myriads of beautifully conceived and executed phrases. And on the title track, a moody, anthemic ballad, Wilkins wields an electric nylon-string whose sonic properties heighten the overall feel. Gomez’s “Cheeks,” a salute to Dizzy Gillespie, relentlessly bops along, providing a nice vehicle for a grooving solo by Wilkins, who particularly excels in this type of setting, and a burning outing by Randy Brecker, whose nuances and phrasing frequently acknowledge Birks. Balancing the program’s originals are readings of three standards, including “All the Things You Are,” whose melody is chucked aside in favor of a novel, uptempo, kinetic treatment that supports an array of adventurous blowing by Wilkins and a masterfully expansive solo by DeJohnette.

While this date could have been recorded better (the guitar sounds like it went straight into the board instead of being miked, which influences its tone and presence), it only slightly detracts from the typically brilliant compositions and performances.

Originally Published