Album at a Glance
Steve Wilson & Wilsonian’s Grain: Live in New York – The Vanguard Sessions
Gleaned from a week’s worth of live gigs at NYC’s famed Village Vanguard venue in May, 2014, Steve Wilson & Wilsonian’s Grain, Live in New York: The Vanguard Sessions, a subtitle pregnant with dual or triple significance, insists at one level that we may be (and to judge from the results released here on Random Act Records, wishfully are) at the forefront of more recordings to come from this powerfully swinging and energetic unit.
Few jazz albums burst out of the blocks with such joyous, soulful force as does this one. At the starter’s pistol firing, the quartet of Steve Wilson, alto and soprano sax, pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Bill Stewart launch into Thelonious Monk’s “Well, You Needn’t;” it’s the musical equivalent of a sprinter’s perfectly synchronized-in-body-and-mind, full-tilt, no let-up dash to victory.
After setting such a blistering pace, sprinters need a walk off to cool down, and the walking tempo set by Orrin Evan’s “Spot It You Got It” begins to provide that, with “Chrysalis,” the first of three consecutive Wilson-penned numbers, bathing in the now-relaxed, decompressed glow of victory at race end.
We now come to find ourselves in our victorious runner’s guise at the post-race elation phase. Named for a cross street of the Vanguard locale, “Perry Street” is marked by a confident buoyancy, with Mr. Wilson’s alto singing of soul-satisfying joy.
Monk's immense influence comes to the fore again on “Spheresophically,” invoked in the work’s title and felt in its intuited bounce and dance; with Orrin Evans’ opening solo catching and disseminating Monk’s spirit, one can almost picture Monk himself arising from the piano to dance to this tune. Steve Wilson’s alto solo offers an equally invigorating take on the Monkian spirit dance. The champion sprinter’s blissful mindset sums up “If I Were A Wind In Spring,” while the late, great drummer Joe Chambers' 1968 tune, “Patterns,” in similar mode to the high energy opener, seems a replay of the race just run and won, while simultaneously singing of future, thrilling races to come.
Of course, the sprinter’s mind and body would fail to work right without the proper functioning of the machine’s heart and soul, that being the rhythm section of Mssrs. Okegwo and Stewart, whose combination of sturdy support and remarkably effective propulsion never relents. In listening you’ll barely break a sweat, but the experience itself will leave you breathless.
Powerhouse Saxophonist STEVE WILSON and his astonishing band – ORRIN EVANS, Piano; UGONNA OKEGWO, Bass; and BILL STEWART, Drums — captured LIVE at the most venerable Jazz Club in the world, the Village Vanguard. For Steve, a veteran leader who has contributed mightily to the groups of Chick Corea, Maria Schneider, Dave Holland and Christian McBride, this is his first album in 12 years, and 8th under his own name.
This is a true working band, one that plays off of one another, one that truly knows their respective styles and is familiar with the music. From Monk’s tune to Steve’s own tribute to Thelonious, this live outing is like spending a perfect evening in New York, at the perfect club, with the perfect Jazz band playing exactly what they want to play.
Source: Random Act Records
Steve Wilson, alto & soprano sax
Highly regarded as a musician’s musician, Steve Wilson has brought his distinctive sound to more than 100 recordings and ensembles led by such celebrated artists as Chick Corea, Ron Carter, Christian McBride, George Duke, Michael Brecker, Dianne Reeves, Bill Bruford, Gerald Wilson, Maria Schneider, Joe Henderson, Charlie Byrd, Karrin Allyson, and Don Byron among many others.
Arriving in New York in 1987, Wilson quickly became first-call choice for veteran and emerging artists alike, prompting a New York Times profile “A Sideman’s Life”. Since 1997 he has been regularly cited in the Downbeat Magazine Critics and Readers Polls in the soprano and alto saxophone categories. In 2008 the Jazz Journalists Association nominated him for Soprano Sax Player of the Year and in 2010 for Alto Sax Player of the Year.
Orrin Evans, piano
Orrin Evans (born 1976) is an American jazz pianist. Evans was born in Trenton, New Jersey and raised in Philadelphia. He attended Rutgers University, and then studied with Kenny Barron. He worked as asideman for Bobby Watson, Ralph Peterson, Duane Eubanks, and Lenora Zenzalai-Helm, and released his debut as a leader in 1994. He signed with Criss Cross Jazz in 1997, recording prolifically with the label. He was awarded a 2010 Pew Fellowships in the Arts.
Evans is married to vocalist Dawn Warren.
Ugonna Okegwo, bass
Ugonna Okegwo (born March 15, 1962, London, England) is a German-Nigerian jazz bassist and composer based in New York City
Born in London, Okegwo is the son of Christel Katharina Lulf and Madueke Benedict Okegwo. In 1963 the family moved to Muenster, Germany, where Okegwo grew up. As a youngster he enjoyed working with his hands and played the electric bass. At age 21, he took a class in violin-making and started playing the upright bass.
In 1986 Okegwo moved to Berlin and studied with bassist Jay Oliver and pianist Walter Norris. He then joined trombonist Lou Blackburn’s group for a tour in Europe and played with Joe Newman, Oliver Jackson and Major Holley.
Throughout his career, Okegwo has worked with a wide range of artists, including Kenny Barron, Michael Brecker, Benny Carter, Johnny Griffin, Wynton Marsalis, James Moody, Clark Terry, Pharoah Sanders, Steve Wilson, Michael Wolff, Bruce Barth, Steve Davis, Lionel Hampton, Sam Newsome, Kurt Rosenwinkel and others.
Bill Stewart, drums
William Harris “Bill” Stewart (born October 18, 1966, Des Moines, Iowa) is an American jazz drummer. Stewart is a versatile player who has performed with a broad array of musicians, from Maceo Parker to John Scofield and Jim Hall. He is also an active composer, whose tunes, which might be categorized as “postmodern” jazz tunes, appear on his, and others’ records.
As a drummer, Bill Stewart’s playing is distinguished by its melodic focus, and its polyrhythmic, or layered character. To describe someone’s drumming style as “melodic” would mean there is a sense that you could “hum along” with discernible linear phrases which tell pieces of a story, akin to a vocalist, pianist, or saxophonist. Stewart’s improvisations favor the development and layering of motivic ideas over the raw generation of excitement or display of technical prowess. Stewart has great touch, or dynamic precision, so that his ideas are articulated with an exactness and clarity. He has also achieved a very high degree of independence of his limbs, so that not only the ride cymbal and the snare/toms, but also the bass drum and hi-hat, are free to participate as melodic “first-class citizens.” His drumming bears the influence of various melodic drummers who preceded him, including Max Roach, Art Blakey, Joe Morello, Roy Haynes, Jack DeJohnette, Paul Motian, and Al Foster.
About Larry Isacson
|Thinking about purchasing this album?
Follow this link for more album details or to make the purchase.
Buy it now
“Not just recommended. Guaranteed.”
We stand behind every album featured on Expedition Audio. Our objective is to take the monetary risk out of music exploration. If you order this album from HBDirect.com and do not like it you can return it for a refund.
Steve Wilson & Wilsonian's Grain: If I Were a Wind of Spring