RSS feed RSS Twitter Twitter Facebook Facebook 15 Questions 15 Questions

Tony Wilson Sextet: "The People Look Like Flowers At Last"

img  Tobias

The People Look Like Flowers At Last, the second album by Vancouver’s Tony Wilson Sextet, is an intriguing reworking of Benjamin Britten’s gorgeous 1976 composition Lachrymae (itself a variation on a lute piece by John Dowland lute piece published in 1596). Originally written for viola and piano, guitarist/composer Tony Wilson filters the piece through the lens of a jazz sextet, using fragments of Britten’s melodic material as bookends for post-bop soloing and collective free jazz improvisations.

The album opens with a take on the opening bars of  “Lachrymae” reconstructed for harmonica and cello with subtle punctuations of low-end piano clusters. From there the music moves through a series of original pieces and masterful interpretations of Britten’s material. The latter remain surprising recognizable throughout despite Wilson’s interesting choices of orchestrational colors that swing the music between instances of floating free jazz and more straightforward ensemble arrangements. Cellist Peggie Lee imbues the sonic space with a classical sound that melds seamlessly with Dylan van der Schyff’s frenzied drum flurries and Paul Blaney’s subtle bass work.

At times, the sound is reminiscent of Chicago Underground Quartet—the combination of Wilson’s clean tone and melodic playing style with Kevin Elaschuk’s trumpet work brings to mind the pairing of Jeff Parker and Rob Mazurik. But Wilson brings his own voice to the arrangements. His ear for concise and textured arrangements and the group’s ability to play off of each other without meandering into self-gratuitous improvisations is far from derivative.

Moments of introspective guitar musing are colored with faint seagull harmonics, subtle breaths moving tonelessly through the trumpet and mists of delicate cymbal and snare work. The through-composed arrangements of Britten’s motifs nicely counter the free-jazz moments that they often sandwich. Frequent appearances of guitar/bass ostinati under the clouds of sound increase the improvisational momentum and render the listening surprising accessible and enjoyable, even when the music is at its most abstract.

Most of the record is built around quiet intensity, though there are a number of notable exceptions—Dave Say’s snowballing saxophone solo that pointillisticly erupts out of “Arpeggio;” Wilson’s brilliant cluster-anchored solo on “Let The Monkeys Dance.” The hard swing-funk groove of “Variation On A Theme” closes the album with a thrilling consonant and crowd-pleasing variation on Britten’s melodic figures.

While The People Look Like Flowers At Last isn’t the first album to interpret classical music in a jazz idiom, it’s a refreshing and unique take on Britten’s brilliant work that serves as a wonderful homage to the late composer, particularly given that Lachrymae was among his final works. At least as importantly, The People Look Like Flowers At Last showcases the Tony Wilson Sextet as a unique and exciting modern jazz ensemble, both in the inventiveness of Wilson’s arrangements and original compositions and in the nuanced personalities of its individual instrumentalists.

By Hannis Brown

Homepage: Tony Wilson Sextet
Homepage: Drip Audio

Related articles

Antonio Ciacca Quintet & Steve Grossman: "Lagos Blues"
He just really must love ...
Gabriel Riesco Project: "Sculptures in Time"
This cooks: Chilled, gray-toned Metheny-style ...
James Moody: „Moody 4A“
A genial, talkative sax: Low-key ...
Eddie the Rat: "Food for the Moon Too Soon"
Never soon enough: A wide ...
Interview with Clang Sayne
Quite a lot of people ...
Jamie Craig: "Illumination"
Sensual metaphors: Instrumental Fusion with ...
Drip Audio: "A very, very, very sad time"
Euphemisms may be suitable in ...
CD Feature/ The Peggy Lee Band: "New Code"
For those prepared to go ...
CD Feature/ Jim McAuley: "The Ultimate Frog"
To the borders of Improvisation: ...

Partner sites