Author: Clark, John
Date published: December 1, 2011
Dave Wilson Quartet - Spiral
Summit Records DCD 544
Dave Wilson (ts /ss), Phil Markowitz (p), Tony Marino (sb), Adam Nussbaum (d)
Spiral / Elm / Ocean Blue / Friend Of The Devil / Summer Breezes / My Own Prison / Movin' On / Like GS 2 / Remembering / Francisca / You're The Biggest Part Of Me TT: 61:43
Dave Wilson is one of the countless warriors in the trenches of professional music making. A resident of Lancaster County, PA for almost thirty years, his resume includes performances of all kinds of commercial music, from ethnic to Dixieland to wedding bands and beyond. The results of this recording are presumably what is closest to his heart, as the music itself has little commercial (as opposed to artistic) appeal and the expense of hiring these heavy-hitting rhythm section must have been considerable.
Markowitz and Nussbaum each bring an extraordinary list of associations with them - Chet Baker, Bob Mintzer, Toots Thielemans for the former and Stan Getz, Michael Brecker, Gil Evans and John Scofield for the latter. Marino is less known, but his work with Phil Woods, Kenny Warner and Dave Liebman suggests his reputation. Together, this unit is a wonderfully integrated section that brings Wilson's compositions and arrangements to a level probably only dreamed of by the leader.
Markowitz solos exceptionally throughout, although nowhere better than on the title track, where he seems to take piral as a directive - creating a constantly changing progression of timbres and moods. Each of his performances on this disc is an excellent example of the piano approached in an orchestral manner, with great attention being paid to changes in texture and voice. Nussbaum likewise treats his instrument as more than a single role player - while he is given little solo space, his constantly varying patterns and sounds are an indispensible element in the success of these performances. Marino likewise solos sparingly (although his work on the introspective rancisca and the more energetic ike GS 2 are notable), but he matches the creativity of the other two in the expanding rhythmic tableau.
While Wilson is of course the most featured soloist, I find his playing to be less impressive than his writing / arranging. The selections on this disc are divided about down the middle between his compositions and his arrangements of other tunes. His own pieces are interesting and well conceived tunes in the style of 1960s Coltrane and Wayne Shorter and foreground the saxophone well, although sometimes one wishes for more abandoned playing to let the music break out of its constraints Spiralis perhaps the best of the bunch in this regard).
Also, his tenor is much superior to his soprano, which tends towards flatness (as so many do). His choice of other material is eclectic to say the least, ranging from a Christian rock tune by Creed ( y Own Prison - a very successful groove) to the Grateful Dead's riend Of The Devil to the Brazilian guitarist Tonino Horta's rancisca.
My favorite of the selections is ike GS 2 (no offense to Markowitz, who doesn't play on the track) which is an adaptation of Scott LaFaro's loria's Step. Beginning with just bass and tenor it calls to mind Oscar Pettiford's ricotism, which might have been what LaFaro had in mind. Here, Wilson produces his best and most searching solo as well as Marino's longest exposure.
Overall, this is a very satisfying disc, particularly in terms of the range of selections - finding ways to break out of the standard box is always a positive step as far as I'm concerned.