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Immanuel Wilkins: The 7th Hand (Blue Note)

1. Immanuel Wilkins The 7th Hand (Blue Note)

Immanuel Wilkins’ Omega was one of the most decorated jazz albums of 2022. When a debut recording hits the street with that kind of impact, it creates high expectations for the follow-up. The 7th Hand exceeds those expectations. Wilkins’ extraordinary talent transcends technical virtuosity on alto saxophone. Somehow, at the age of 24, he is an artist of profound spiritual depth. The 7th Hand is a step beyond Omega because it moves from social and historical concerns (important as they are) to universal truths of human striving and aspiration. It is a suite in seven parts. The first six constitute a diverse, powerful statement. Because Wilkins and his pianist Micah Thomas are wildly creative improvisers, those first six movements, if they stood alone, would comprise a Top Ten album. But the seventh movement, “Lift,” makes The 7th Hand something apart. It is 26 minutes of hell and heaven in which the four members of Wilkins’ quartet, in his words, “become vessels.” This state of selflessness leads to extremes of shattering crisis and liberating catharsis. Such a testament could only achieve its final fulfillment by risking everything and passing through fire. With “Lift” as culmination, The 7th Hand becomes overwhelming. THOMAS CONRAD