Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wilson's First

Dan Wilson. To Whom it May Concern.
Whoville Recordings, 2012. Dan Wilson: http://www.facebook.com/DanWilsonGuitar   or http://www.danwilsonguitar.com

As Dan Wilson’s premier CD in 2012, To Whom It May Concern is a great introduction to not just a Hiram alumnus, but a number of Northeast Ohio musical personalities. Wilson brings together not only NEO artists (and quite a few of them), but also NEO recording and technical contributors.  The singular billing and cover art belie the length of the list of musicians, a mark of a truly respected leader and master, which seems to describe Wilson to a tee.  Wilson has strong Northeast Ohio ties, with degrees from both Hiram College and Youngstown State University, and now teaches at Cuyahoga Community College.  At the same time, his influences and influence stretches across the globe from Pittsburgh (where some of his contributors reside) to Russia, and from Brazil to Germany.  Wilson was introduced to music through gospel, unsurprisingly, and was prompted to become a musician after hearing Wes Montgomery, but the complexity and variety seen in his recording debut reach farther than these beginnings could have predicted.

To Whom it May Concern is a definitely a jazz listener’s CD, starting out with the spoken word proclamation that jazz has to have a beat and soul, and then goes on to prove that Wilson and his music no doubt have both.  While many people may associate jazz with the piano or with wind instruments, jazz guitar has a strong tradition ranging from early 1900’s with musicians such as Carl Kress, through the 1960’s and George Benson, up to today’s John Pizzarelli.  Wilson is a welcome addition to that heritage, and has a high likelihood of bringing positive attention to Northeast Ohio through his talent in this musical arena.
Wilson’s artistry gives a polished, coherent voice to the CD, with one track blending into the next easily.  This continuity makes for a pleasant experience overall, although the digital format offered online can run into technical difficulties with iTunes separating the album tracks, and the separated tracks aren’t nearly as enjoyable.   That’s obviously a technical issue, and not musical, but just a little proviso to anyone using the digital download version on Apple products (you can thank my husband for this information).  Personally, I recommend using the CD to avoid the possibility, and then sit back for a treat.  The one negative of the album is a slight tendency for over-extending improvisations on a theme.  Even the best theme can eventually get a bit old, but this isn’t a fatal flaw, and one that I’m sure will be corrected with experience in a recorded music setting as Wilson’s career unfolds.
The album functions well as a whole piece, but reading the liner notes reveals that the album was not written as such, and instead details the very individual processes and inspirations for each of the pieces, and which songs are reinterpretations of other artists’ work.  “Who Shot John” is a nice track, and Wilson’s attempt to make 5/4 time danceable; the track fills out well, but danceable might be a goal not quite attained.  “Another Star” is a Stevie Wonder tune, but fits in well with Wilson’s original work, at least to this Stevie Wonder non-expert.  “To Whom it May Concern” has the biggest problems with repetition, while the track still is solid.  Rodger and Hammerstein’s “It Might as Well be Spring” is melodious and not mistakable as the original; Wilson manages to make this his own very well.  “Crazy Barrett,” “Afrozilla,” and “Audible Distraction” round out the set nicely and close the album on a very positive note.

Personnel: Dan Wilson (Vocals and guitar), James Johnson III (Drums), Philip K. Jones (Piano and Organ), Bryan Connell (Tenor and Alto Saxophone), Keith McKelley (Alto Saxophone), Chris Anderson (Trombone), Kip Reed (Bass), Stephen Fowler (Vocals), Carolyn Perteete (Vocals), Barrett Barnes (Drums), Allen Swoope (Organ), Shea Pierre (Piano), Theron Brown (Organ), Joey Green (Bass), Alton Merrell (Keyboard), Jamey Haddad (Percussion), and Bill Ransom (Percussion).
Tracks: Long Story Short, Who Shot John, Another Star, To Whom It May Concern, It Might as Well be Spring, Crazy Barrett, Afrozilla, Audible Distraction

Lisa Regula Meyer

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