Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Jack Wilkins - 2001 "Reunion"

Reunion is just that.

And for jazz listeners who missed Jack Wilkins' outstanding 1977 release, Merge, the first time out, or for those who are too young to remember it, Reunion brings back that group for a brief moment in time.

It wasn't easy. Schedules conflicted and everyone was busy, but they found a slot when they could record. Try as they might, Wilkins and the producer weren't able to pin down saxophonist Michael Brecker for more than two tracks. But the "what if" questions about the addition of Michael Brecker are answered on Reunion, for the Brecker brothers do team up on "Kiwi Bird" and Horace Silver's "Break City." The remainder of the CD consists of the personnel who created such a pearl 24 years before, one that awaited discovery by a guitarist who recorded too infrequently as a leader.

The original group grew incrementally, at first consisting of Wilkins and bassist Eddie Gomez when they played at Sweet Basil. Later, Jack DeJohnette and Randy Brecker joined in. The result was/is a distinctive group, each member with his own personal sound. Yet, they all intuitively understand the value of interaction and spontaneity. In fact, this group is one case where the rhythm section leads the horn, so recognizable are their styles. Gomez' full virtuosic sound in instantly recognizable, no matter where he performs. DeJohnette developed his own individual approach to the drums that, like all great drummers', enlarges the meaning of each tune through texture and pulse.

Often, the genre of choice is bop, which makes sense due to the influence of musicians like Horace Silver upon members of the group. Recalling their work in his group, the Brecker brothers perform Silver's "Break City," and Michael in particular stretches out in full command of his instrument.

But Wilkins had more in mind than a re-creation of his previous album. "Reunion" the song is a minor-keyed excursion that invites close listening as the musicians improvise over its modal structure. Wilkins develops the tune as through successive choruses of atmospheric embellishment, which are notable in addition for Gomez' and DeJohnette's irresistible rhythmic drive that they build.

The slower tunes include Gomez' "Scott," a 3/4 tribute to his son that he bows in introduction before Wilkins joins in to break out the melody. Gomez' and Wilkins' solos are the highlights of the tune as they demonstrate mastery of their instruments that has only improved over the years. Wilkins ends the CD with the standards "But Beautiful" and "All The Things You Are," "But Beautiful" being a trio setting that lets Wilkins relax as he explores the tunes harmonic richness.

After all of these years, the Wilkins group is intact and inspiring. If their now-busy careers prevent the opportunity for them to perform live, at least we have Reunion to document the group's natural ability to perform, and to communicate, as if 1977 were only yesterday.

This disc reunites the musicians-guitarist Jack Wilkins, saxophonist Michael Brecker, trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist Eddie Gomez, and drummer Jack DeJohnette-featured on Merge, recorded for Chiaroscuro in 1977. Since then, more than 20 years later, each has become one of the most respected players on his instrument. And while Wilkins is the leader of this date, the other players get plenty of blowing room, and Wilkins, Gomez and Randy Brecker all contribute original material.

On Wilkins’ grooving, upbeat “Kiwi Bird” the Breckers step up with dynamic, searching solos that set the stage for a guitar excursion that includes myriads of beautifully conceived and executed phrases. And on the title track, a moody, anthemic ballad, Wilkins wields an electric nylon-string whose sonic properties heighten the overall feel. Gomez’s “Cheeks,” a salute to Dizzy Gillespie, relentlessly bops along, providing a nice vehicle for a grooving solo by Wilkins, who particularly excels in this type of setting, and a burning outing by Randy Brecker, whose nuances and phrasing frequently acknowledge Birks. Balancing the program’s originals are readings of three standards, including “All the Things You Are,” whose melody is chucked aside in favor of a novel, uptempo, kinetic treatment that supports an array of adventurous blowing by Wilkins and a masterfully expansive solo by DeJohnette.

While this date could have been recorded better (the guitar sounds like it went straight into the board instead of being miked, which influences its tone and presence), it only slightly detracts from the typically brilliant compositions and performances.

Back in 1977, guitarist Jack Wilkins led a very rewarding recording date, Merge, that featured trumpeter Randy Brecker and tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker playing straight-ahead jazz. For this reunion date, Wilkins, bassist Eddie Gomez, and drummer Jack DeJohnette are joined throughout (except for the guitarist's feature on "But Beautiful") by Randy Brecker, although brother Michael is unfortunately only on two selections. Wilkins and Randy Brecker have many fine solos, and the repertoire consists of five group originals, Horace Silver's "Break City," and three standards. Although not reaching the heights of Merge (it is a pity that Michael Brecker was not along for the whole project), this is mostly a high-quality quartet outing of fine post-bop jazz. Worth exploring.

Track Listing:

1. Kiwi Bird (6:46) [Jack Wilkins]
2. Reunion (8:30) [Jack Wilkins]
3. Break City (6:03) [Horace Silver]
4. Moontide (8:31) [Randy Brecker]
5. Yours Is My Heart Alone (7:24) [Lehar]
6. Scott (8:27) [Eddie Gomez]
7. Cheeks (7:42) [Eddie Gomez]
8. But Beautiful (4:42) [Burke, VanHeusen]
9. All The Things You Are (7:23) [Hammerstein, Kern]


Jack Wilkins (guitar);
Michael Brecker (tenor saxophone);
Randy Brecker (trumpet, flugelhorn);
Eddie Gomez (bass);
Jack DeJohnette (drums).


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Will supply the rest of the scans when I receive this CD in the mail :-)

  3. so much thanks for all you offer !

  4. Thanks so much for all you make available. I think you have great taste!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. New links (scans included).