Edward Wilkerson, Jr.

Light on the Path

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AllMusic Review by

Saxophonist Edward Wilkerson Jr. is best known as the leader of the fine ensemble 8 Bold Souls, but this album finds him leading a sparkling quartet through five strong original tunes lodged firmly in the post-bop tradition. As with his larger group, Wilkerson enjoys taking time with his pieces, allowing them to sprawl out and find directions that might not have been apparent when they first began, secondary and tertiary themes blooming when least expected. The soloing by all members is far less about bluster and pyrotechnics than thoughtfulness and probity, a drift reinforced by the solemnity of most of the compositions. Wilkerson's own sound, notably on tenor, is garrulous and rich, evoking memories of Gene Ammons. Trumpeter Rod McGaha, who would later venture out into hip-hop-influenced music, is especially impressive here, echoing the work of past masters like Olu Dara. Bassist Harrison Bankhead, also a mainstay of 8 Bold Souls, is superb here, underpinning the entire session with an effortless creativity, again in muted form with no showboating. The title cut takes a different tack, all light, airy, and bouncy, with more fine soloing from McGaha and Wilkerson. Although clearly deriving from some aspects of the post-AACM Chicago scene, Wilkerson has a very unique compositional sound, an approach that will be immediately enjoyed by admirers of musicians like Henry Threadgill. Recommended.

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