Reviews Press Stories
Review "Invitation" from "Merge"
Jack Wilkins first impressed as the very hot guitarist in the small group that Buddy Rich led in the early '70s at his new jazz club in New York, Buddy's Place (hear the CD Very Live at Buddy's Place), an ensemble that also included Sonny Fortune, Sal Nistico and Kenny Barron. That gig, plus Wilkins's own at another New York venue, Sweet Basil, ultimately resulted in his being called on to do two albums for Chiaroscuro in 1977, which were later combined for this 1992 CD release. These albums are considered by many of those fortunate enough to have heard them to be among the finest jazz recordings of the '70s.
"Invitation" features Michael and Randy Brecker, both taking a respite from the funk/R&B/jazz fusion of their Brecker Brothers band to vigorously exercise their formidable, undiluted jazz chops. The 13-minute piece begins with Michael's commanding tenor slowly playing the theme with a lustrous tone and alluring embellishments, while Wilkins provides intriguingly creative accompaniment. Michael's tone hardens as he enters what will be a tempestuous and probing solo, with Jon Burr now initiating a propulsive bassline. Michael delivers an endless, mesmerizing string of winding extended lines and jabbing motifs, building in intensity as he utilizes various provocative tonal effects to enhance his improvisation. Wilkins follows with his distinctively light guitar sound, piling on layers of inventive chord progressions and intricately constructed phrases and runs. Randy Brecker's mellow, fully rounded flugelhorn is an apt successor to Wilkins, although his attack is actually very trumpet-like in its stimulating urgency. Michael then returns to revisit the theme, this time with a looser, more swinging pulse, only to be joined first by Wilkins and then by Randy for a swirling contrapuntal fadeout ending. This is timeless music.