Dan Wilson

Vessels Of Wood And Earth
(Brother Mister Productions/ Mack Avenue BRO4001)

For those unfamiliar with guitarist and composer Dan Wilson, Vessels Of Wood And Earth offers a splendid introduction. While it’s his third disc as a leader, it’s his first on Christian McBride’s boutique label. Channeling the warm, soulful vibes of Wes Montgomery and George Benson, Wilson specializes in post-Motown bop—that strain of r&b-enhanced jazz that comes across effortlessly but proves difficult to pull off with a strong sense of individuality and modernity. But with his assured sense of swing, melodic improvisations and magnetic guitar tone, Wilson triumphs.

When rendering classic soul and jazz standards, Wilson makes wise decisions. He knows how to modernize without letting structural ambition run amok. Case in point: his beguiling reimagination of Stevie Wonder’s “Birds Of Beauty,” a song that originally pranced to a samba groove. Drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts and bassist Marco Panascia replace the original groove with a slippery, almost broken-beat jazz pulsation, while Christian Sands’ piano accompaniment retains much of the original Brazilian feel. On top, Wilson unravels curvaceous melodic improvisations that soon volley with Sands’ equally enchanting improvisations.

The album contains some impressive originals, too, such as the Afro-Latin tinged “Who Shot John,” and the stomping “The Reconstruction Beat,” on which Wilson and the rhythm team sneak in snatches of James Brown’s “Soul Power.” Indeed, this smart and earthy release signals the arrival of a modern jazz guitarist who understands the enduring value of feel-good music.

On Sale Now
May 2024
Stefon Harris
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