By choosing a title like TRIOART, with the latter part of italicized no less, an artist could well be setting himself up for criticism if he fails to measure up to such a lofty pretense. After hearing Jack Wilkins’ performance on his new Arabesque CD though, calling it anything less than art, italicized or not, would be an injustice. Jack Wilkins is a consummate artist.
The songs, with the exception of the two Wilkins’ originals, are all in the ballad mode, though Jack freely tinkers with tempos to suit his fancy. In doing so, however, Jack does not sacrifice the composers’ intent to his formidable technique, as is so often the case with less sympathetic improvisers. Rather, he nurtures and explores the composition, lovingly expanding on the established themes.
The opener, Irving Berlin’s “How Deep Is The Ocean” is taken at a brisker-than-usual pace, and “When Sunny Gets Blue” is remolded into an irresistible bossa.
Bassist Steve LaSpina’s contributions exist almost as an extension of Jack’s own performance and improvisations, complimenting and embellishing them. This is true whether stating the theme to “Emily” or gently caressing the arcato introduction of Wilkins’ “For Baden,” a dedication to the great Brazilian composer Baden Powell.
There is a certain finesse to Wilkins’ ballad playing, harp-like in the elegance of his chords, yet having the straight forward simplicity on his solo rendition of “Prelude to a Kiss.”
The trio is handsomely augmented by the addition of pianist Marc Puricelli(quartetart?!) on “Why Did I Choose You,” where Puricelli plays a lush solo an lays in some synth strings as well. Jack’s chord melody chorus is superb!
The guitarist also explores Bill Evans’ waltz-time “Very Early” with fine support from drummer Jeff Hirshfeld, and the trio wraps up this excellent effort with the title track, a Wes Montgomery influenced blues.
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