Steve Wilkerson & Andrea Baker

Licorice Ice

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This is the sixth release by the husband and wife team of multi-reed man Steve Wilkerson and vocalist Andrea Baker for their Dane Records label. This time they work together on a CD that features Wilkerson's skill with the clarinet, which is formidable. Wilkerson also shows that the cool licorice stick can be warm as well on such tunes as "The Shadow of Your Smile" and "Pennies From Heaven." He adds tongue (or reed) in cheek '20s style on "After You've Gone," with everyone getting a chance to let loose in ensemble and alone. The Bix Beiderbecke-like muted trumpet of Gary Halopoff steals the show on this cut. Wilkerson's tone is pure and cool, without vibrato. He explores all the possibilities offered by the instrument. There's a middle-register mahogany tone on "In a Mellow Tone," with a coda interpolating the clarinet introduction to George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." He uses "China Boy" to show that he can amble around in the higher register without being shrill. Wife Baker does not vocalize on all the cuts. Unfortunately, on some of her tracks, such as "The More I See You," parts of her accompaniment are electronically generated strings that add nothing to the performance. Instead, they muffle Baker's vocals. On the sides where she's accompanied by real people, such as "Sentimental and Blue," the outcome is much better. Even though the instrumental side of this CD gets better treatment than the vocal side, Wilkerson's way with the clarinet and some fresh instrumental arrangements played by good West Coast musicians put it in the recommended category.

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