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My Summer in Italy

In celebration of his New York, New Sound CD for the Mack Avenue label, Gerald Wilson did a Monday night at Birdland surrounded by many of the New York old pros who made the recording with him earlier this year. There were some changes, however. Renee Rosnes, who shared the piano assignment with Kenny Barron on the record date, had the bench all to herself his time. The ebullient Wilson had her play pre-theme, opening solos on Miles Davis’ “Milestones,” Ellington and Tizol’s “Perdido” and his own “Blues for the Count.” On the second and last of these he urged her to emulate Duke and Basie, which she did, with essences and references rather than direct re-creations.

On “Milestones,” which began the evening, buoyed by bassist Charles Fambrough and drummer Lewis Nash, Rosnes swiftly pushed the band into the punchy theme, setting a pace that surged into a trumpet solo by Jimmy Owens that crackled like bacon over a high flame, with the reeds serving as a skillet. Jesse Davis’ uplifting alto sax, backed by the trumpets, burned next. The next two soloists were not on the New York recording. They came with Wilson from California, specifically from the jazz program at UCLA where Gerald teaches, and proved to be young firebrands. First it was trombonist Isaac Smith, lippin’ and slidin’ with fervor and bite; then Kamasi Washington, a defensive end of a tenor player with a sound and an attitude as large as his frame, ranging over a field of trombones. Guitarist Anthony Wilson, Gerald’s son, also part of the California contingent, picked a solo that achieved the trifecta of speed, round sound and clarity of articulation. Before the theme reemerged there were exciting crosscurrents among the reeds and brass.

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