Having followed Jack Wilkins’ career for many years I have always thought that it would be great to hear him in and organ trio setting. I mentioned this to Chris Burden, the President of String Jazz Recordings, last year and was, needless to say, absolutely delighted when he decided to follow up this idea with Jack’s latest album BLUESIN’.
When I received the review copy of this album, I was initially a little reluctant to review it, on the grounds of my aforementioned involvement. On reflection, however, and idea or suggestion does not really constitute a bested interest, so with some hesitance, I will proceed with the review.
Jack arrived in England to some miserable April weather. His first impressions of the North must have been horrendous; the pre-recording gig we had set up for him was attended by 6 confirmed jazz guitar freaks. A small audience for a world class player, but then again, the Manchester football team was playing at home and the game was also broadcast on TV-c’est la vie!
For the actual recording session, Wilkins teamed up, for the first time, with local organ wizard Steve Wood and drummer Tony Lawson. With the minimum of fuss and precious little rehearsal, the seven cuts on this CD were recorded. Virtually devoid of overdubbing and second takes, the music, which is uniformly excellent, speaks for itself.
Right from the get-go, a bossa/rock rendition of “All or Nothing,” Wilkins’ big sound and monster chops take charge of the proceedings. Wood’s Hammond is to Wilkins what Mel Rhyne’s Hammond was to Wes: delicate, supportive yet biting when necessary, replete with a musical logic that can only come from years of experience. There are 4 Wilkins originals, ranging from the 6/8 Coltranesque “Vista” to the dreamy “Awakened Sound,” dedicated to Bob and Cindy Benedetto, beautifully written and, as one would expect of Wilkins, exquisitely performed. Wood’s Hammond solo on this tune is particularly memorable also.
“No Smokin’,” not the Horace Silver tune, but another Wilkins original, is a tricky head over a pseudo jazz/rock rhythm. Definitely a showpiece for Wilkins with some mind-boggling chops and bluesy bends - great for guitar nuts, but personally I find the drums a little too overpowering and rock’n’roll. Perhaps less emphasis on a persistent backbeat and more variation would have lifted the drum part above the mundane. Wilkins’ guitar, however, is so technically spectacular that most guitar enthusiasts may not even notice the obtrusive drum part!
The gorgeous ballad “Old Folks,” closely associated with Wes Montgomery and Grant Green follows providing a wonderful contrast and sense of relief. A standout reading which we can definitely add to the illustrious aforementioned list. For my money “Old Folks” and the equally sensitive “Awakened Sound” are the high spots of this CD. Mention should also be made of Wilkins’ rare use of the acoustic nylon string guitar on “I Concentrate on You.”
This CD is an absolute must for any self-respecting jazz guitar enthusiast!
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