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Review "Bluesin'"
Jack Wilkins’ new CD Bluesin’ (Sting Jazz) marks the first time he has recorded as a leader in the always-popular “organ trio” format. After giving it a listen, my first question was, “What took him so long?!” This is a perfect fit.

Recorded in guitarist Andy MacKenzie’s studio in Sale, England last year, Wilkins and producer Chris Burden enlisted Manchester based Hammond man Steve Wood and another local, drummer Tony Lawson for the session, Jack penned four of the album’s seven tunes, and it is partially his distinctive, somewhat quirky compositions which set this trio apart from the rest of the organ guitar pack.

“Vista” moves in and out of modal territory, finding contrast in both light and dark themes. Wood and Lawson establish and insistent, yet subtle symbiosis which gives Jack unfailing support for his extemporizations. “Awakened Sound” is a strong ballad statement which has Jack spacing its lyrical phrases with incredibly swift fills. Wood’s organ solo is romantic and steamy.

They give the blues a twist with the recurrent dissonance of “No Smokin’,” and Lawson’s “in the pocket” drumming belies the track’s emission-free title. “Mr. M.C.,” another bluesy original, is also the disc’s no-holds-barred bebop flag waver, with Jack spitting out funky, horn-inspired phrases as only he can.

The non-Wilkins’ material includes a Latin-tinged “All or Nothing at All” and an inspired reading of that favored or organists and guitarists alike, “Old Folks.”
For a change of pace, Jack picks up the electric nylon string for a run at Cole Porter’s “I Concentrate on You.” With Wood’s organ purring faintly in the background, the tune is an unusual, but highly effective study in textures, allowing both players to advance and recede in the mix. The nylon stringed instrument inspires the guitarist to alter his approach, finding a voice somewhere between Django and Rio. Again, Lawson’s no-frills approach to the drum set fits the bill perfectly.

If you dig this disc (as I’m sure you will) there is some added good news. Enough material was recorded at this session for a second CD to be released within the next year!