Gerald Wilson / Gerald Wilson Orchestra

Legacy

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Gerald Wilson demonstrates that age is only a number with his outstanding composing and arranging for these big-band sessions. Having celebrated his 92nd birthday around the time that he made this recording, Wilson offers a diverse program, though his deteriorating vision requires Eric Otis (his grandson) to notate the leader's music from his oral instructions as he composes at the piano. Three of his pieces are derived from famous classical works. "Variations on a Theme by Igor Stravinsky" is taken from the composer's famous early 20th century ballet The Firebird, a robust cooker that serves as a brief introduction. "Variations on Clair de Lune" gives Claude Debussy's well-known work a slow, bluesy air at first, showcasing pianist Renee Rosnes and son Anthony Wilson on guitar, though it soon transforms into a breezy setting. "Variations on a Theme by Giacomo Puccini" takes one of his most beloved moving arias ("Nessum Dorma") and gives it an uplifting bop flavor. Wilson's "Yes, Chicago Is…" consists of a seven-part suite, highlighted by the boisterous "Riffin' at the Regal" and the snappy "Cubs, Bears, Bulls, and White Sox" (a bluesy vehicle with numerous potent solos). Anthony composed and arranged "Virgo," while Eric penned "September Sky," further evidence that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree as far as music is concerned in the Wilson family. The supporting cast includes some of the most in-demand musicians on the New York City jazz scene, including bassist Peter Washington, drummer Lewis Nash, saxophonists Antonio Hart, Dick Oatts, and Gary Smulyan, and trumpeters Jeremy Pelt, Sean Jones, and Freddie Hendrix, along with trombonists Douglas Purviance and Alan Ferber, among others. This outstanding recording adds to the already substantial discography of the great Gerald Wilson.

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