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Gerald Wilson Orchestra: Legacy

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Gerald Wilson’s new album, Legacy, is aptly titled. His son Anthony Wilson and grandson Eric Otis each contribute a composition to the project, which is anchored by Wilson’s own seven-part suite Yes Chicago Is…, a celebration of his home through much of the 1940s. Wilson, who turns 93 in September, conducted a standout band of 20 for the session, with a rhythm section including his guitarist son, Renee Rosnes (piano), Peter Washington (bass) and Lewis Nash (drums), and a horn section including the likes of Antonio Hart, Ron Blake, Gary Smulyan, Sean Jones, Freddie Hendrix and Jeremy Pelt.

Anthony Wilson features his guitar midway through his own “Virgo,” which also has some nice solo work on piano and alto sax and a hypnotic bassline. Otis’ piece, “September Sky,” is carried along dreamily by flute and trumpet until breaking into whippet-fast saxophone for a minute toward the end, finally resolving in slow, pretty piano and horns. Gerald Wilson offers variations on works by Stravinsky, Puccini and Debussy. His “Variations on Clair de Lune” is especially intriguing, Wilson having reinvented it with the Avery Parrish tune “After Hours” in mind. Rosnes, in particular, is at her best and bluesiest here.

The Chicago suite, commissioned for the 2008 Chicago Jazz Festival, opens with “A Jazz Mecca,” piano and horns lugubriously stating a theme that will be echoed more perkily in what follows. “A Night at the El Grotto,” “Riffin’ at the Regal” and “47th Street Blues” are short, bouncy tributes to specific locales, while “Blowin’ in the Windy City” pays homage to the whole town. “Cubs, Bears, Bulls, and White Sox” is a deep-toned nod to the sporting scene, heavy on trombone and baritone sax. And Wilson slows it all down again for a final glance back in “A Great Place to Be.”

Originally Published