Saturday, June 13, 2009

Corey Wilkes and Abstract Pulse - Cries from tha Ghetto (Pi Recordings, 2009)

Trumpeter Corey Wilkes raised eyebrows a few years ago when he was tapped as a very young man to take the vacant trumpet chair in The Art Ensemble of Chicago for a series of live gigs and a live album. Pretty heavy stuff, but he acquitted himself well and made a name for himself as one to watch. After a tentative solo debut on Delmark, he brings a free funk ensemble to Pi on his second album for impressive results. Joining him for this album are Kevin Nabors on tenor saxophone, Scott Hesse on guitar, Junius Paul on bass and Isaiah Spencer on drums. Jumaane Taylor's tap dancing adds some extra percussion. "First Mind" and "Levitation" are very nice examples of modern post bop, with the band cracking on all cylinders and playing with an impressive but controlled uptempo. "Sick JJ" takes the band into freer territory with Wilkes slurring is lines and the the band coloring outside the lines. It's the stark, heartbroken ballad "Rain" that I found most impressive. I mean, we know he can wail like a banshee, but to hear Wilkes put that prodigious talent behind a mournful, moody ballad and pull it off is a wonderful example of his growth as a musician, and a marvel of restrained lyricism. As a prodigious talent in search of an outlet, Wilkes reminds me of James Carter (whom he has performed with.) Hopefully Wilkes will find a productive and nurturing home with Pi Records and avoid Carter's mercurial hopping from label to label, and from project to project. Economics of jazz make hard for everyone, but with Wilkes talent in modern jazz, funk and free makes him someone to watch and root for.
Cries from tha Ghetto -

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