Lowest Note is Vancouver guitarist Tony Wilson's first CD as a leader. It fits the new jazz Vancouver sound developed in the 1990s by people like François Houle, Peggy Lee, and Dylan van der Schyff, all of whom appear on this CD. Actually, this sextet (plus Houle on track four) is pretty close to the Peggy Lee Ensemble (eponymous CD released in 2000 on the same Spool label). Wilson writes delicate pieces involving contrapuntal figures, jazz rhythm patterns, and rock-derived riffs. The music is mostly laid-back and atmospheric (think of Bill Frisell or Ben Monder). High-speed exceptions like "Lowest Note" do exist, making sure the listener doesn't settle in too comfortably. The album reaches a peak on the ten-minute "Untitled #4," a complex piece recalling Frank Zappa's Grand Wazoo phase where Wilson gets a guitar spotlight -- a rare event on this CD, since he usually limits his playing to discreet picking. Kevin Elaschuk (trumpet) and Dave Say (tenor sax) front the band's sound. Another highlight resides in the lyrical "Can't Take a Joke." Wilson's compositions are less repetitive than Lee and also tighter, but he does not take the Vancouver sound into new territories. All of which makes Lowest Note a strong but not surprising debut.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by François Couture