When an album includes songs by the Grateful Dead, Creed, and Ambrosia, the phrase "instrumental, acoustic-oriented post-bop jazz" usually isn't the first thing that comes to mind. But tenor/soprano saxophonist Dave Wilson's Spiral is, in fact, an instrumental, acoustic-oriented post-bop jazz album that includes songs by the Grateful Dead, Creed, and Ambrosia -- and the impressive thing is that Wilson's jazz mentality is as strong on the rock and pop/rock material as it is on the original compositions that dominate this 2009 recording. Of course, it would come as no surprise if a smooth jazz artist recorded something by Ambrosia, who were huge in the soft rock and adult contemporary markets in the mid- to late '70s and early '80s. But Spiral isn't smooth jazz; Wilson gets his inspiration from post-bop saxophonists like Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, and Joe Henderson (with a healthy appreciation of Michael Brecker as well). And when he tackles the Grateful Dead's "Friend of the Devil," Creed's "My Own Prison," and Ambrosia's "Biggest Part of Me," Wilson isn't playing the type of vapid, note-for-note covers one associates with Dave Koz, Richard Elliot or the late George Howard. That isn't the scenario at all. Wilson (who forms a quartet with pianist Phil Markowitz, bassist Tony Marino, and drummer Adam Nussbaum) seriously interprets those three tunes, and his solos are equally introspective on six original compositions and a memorable arrangement of Brazilian star Toninho Horta's "Francisca." The fact that Wilson can take songs from Bay Area jam band country-rock, post-grunge, alternative rock, soft rock/adult contemporary, and Brazilian jazz-pop and make all of them relevant to post-bop speaks well of the Pennsylvania-based saxophonist, who is in fine form throughout Spiral.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson