Many people may have forgotten what a unique and durable baritone saxophonist Wilson has been over the past three decades, but this CD, one of scant few in his discography, should give all a prompt reminder. He has the innate ability to effectively mix rough and smooth, lyrical or overblown lines at will, his meaty sound all his own with little excess or cops from influences. He moved to Richmond, Virginia, from NYC a decade ago and decided his local working band, dubbed the Jazzmaniacs, comprising pianist Steve Kessler, bassist Jim Masters, and drummer Tony Martucci, was good enough to do this recording, a live club date at Richmond's Bogart's Back Room (restaurant). It proved to be a very good move, and an all-star band will have to wait. Wilson likes to change up arrangements on modern to post-bop evergreens. Nearly hip-hop, but definitely hip, the quartet delightfully funks up Wayne Shorter's "Lester Left Town," a true highlight. Implied swing creeps in, as do the strains of "As Time Goes By" on Kessler's solo. Hank Mobley's "This I Dig of You" starts as a ballad then swings hard, a proud moment for Wilson and the late composer. Also commendable is the excavation of the Charles Mingus' hard bop to ballad, multi-layered "All the Things You Could Be If Sigmund Freud's Wife Was Your Mother," replete with stark stop/start or free-based time changes. Wilson, via composer/guitarist/friend Rory Stuart, adapts Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way" into "Sweet Thing," a hard swinger switching from 4/4 to 6/8 seamlessly, slowed briefly with "A Time for Love" piano solo quotes. Wilson turns modified corn into gold with a modally kinetic, at times squawky take of "It Was a Very Good Year," fades in a swing intro, balladic body, and samba insert for "Winter Wonderland," and closes with a delicate, off minor, blues swagger rendition of the TV theme to Mayberry R.F.D. called "Mayberry R.I.P." Masters contributes the ballad waltz "More Than Too... It's Five," and Thomas Chapin's title cut is a loping and biting original boppish melody, a good swinger and triple axel pivot point for the set. This is a fine effort, worthy of your attention and purchase, filled with variety, good feeling, excellent musicianship, ultimate teamwork, and the pungent, potent, poignant baritone sax of an unsung hero in modern jazz. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos