New York, New Sound

Gerald Wilson Orchestra

Mack Avenue Records, 2003

REVIEW BY: Andrea Callahan


Gerald Wilson is, according to the biography published in the jacket material, a legend in his own time in the jazz world. With 85 years in jazz music and still counting, Wilson has attracted the top talent for this romp through every jazz sound that has cropped up in a generation. The music on New York, New Sound is, with the exception of two tracks, all new compositions by Wilson. Two songs on the album are Grammy-winners, and the tracks that Wilson didn't compose himself are classics originally composed by Miles Davis and John Coltrane. One would almost have to have no sense of honor to dispute the accomplishments this album celebrates.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

I do have a sense of honor, and I do think that this is a fine album of jazz music. Written by Wilson after a lengthy stay in LA, the Latino flavor is very evident in both "Viva Terado" and "M Capetillo." Wilson's instrument when he played with Count Basie was the trumpet, and it is evident throughout the album that the classic big band sound is where home is for Wilson. The musicians brought together to play as an orchestra under Wilson's leadership are definitely top notch. The jacket art lists the soloists for each track; there are an average of 4 soloists per track and 25 members to the orchestra. While there are too many soloists to list the pros and cons of each, a few musicians stand out. Gerald Wilson's son, Anthony, plays 4 excellent solos on the guitar, and Kenny Barron on piano is another favorite. Frank Wess on tenor sax plays an excellent haunting melody.

New York, New Sound is a great example of current musicians playing classic jazz, almost to a fault. There's no arguing that this music is excellent, but there isn't a sense of anything behind the music. My only complaint about the recordings on this album is that it is so, well, orchestrated. Without reading the jacket material, I never would have guessed that there were solos on this album, at least not the sort of spontaneous solos that are evident in earlier jazz, where the arranger was one of the artists. While I admire the music for its own sake, I'm not sure that this album will attract my attention later, due to the fact that it feels like a technical lesson or history lesson, rather than a wild thrash put together on the spot.

There are many things to recommend this album. It is a stellar recording of an orchestra; the solos are clear without swamping the rest of the band, and there is a variety of music exhibiting every American influence on jazz. For people planning 1920's themed events, this would be some of the most appropriate mood music to be found. I'm not sure that I will ever play the CD just for fun on my own, though. It will probably sit on my shelf until I want to let someone listen to an example of classic jazz.

Rating: B

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© 2004 Andrea Callahan and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mack Avenue Records, and is used for informational purposes only.