Eric Wyatt looks to the sky in new release
By: Lynn René Bayley
The notes for this release state that this album is a reflection of Eric Wyatt’s life. His father, Charles Jolley Wyatt, was himself a tenor saxophonist and a friend of Sonny Rollins who, early in Eric’s career, dubbed him “The Godson of Sonny Rollins.” He introduced his son not only to Rollins’ playing but also that of Charlie Parker. A family friend, Arthur Rhames, introduced Eric to the music of John Coltrane, and ever since he has felt that he is “wearing two hats,” with one foot in Newk (Rollins) and one in Trane. Both his father and Rhames died in 1989.
The album starts out with E-Brother, one of two tunes by pianist Benito Gonzalez. This is a funky jazz piece with a bit of an Afro-Latin beat to it, and Wyatt’s first entrance is impressive. He seems to be channeling Trane here, but Trane in his earlier, more swinging days. Keyon Harrold takes a fine trumpet solo, then it’s Gonzalez’ turn, and he plays some very pretty fast figures before the whole band returns for the ride-out. On Look to the Sky-Sister Carol, which starts out as a 6/8 jazz waltz, Wyatt switches to alto, but politely defers to Harrold as the first soloist up. Harrold plays relatively sparsely, using the relaxation of his improv to rhythmically launch his trumpet. He does not have a big tone but is a very good and imaginative improviser. Then Wyatt enters, and he completely changes the sonic landscape, playing alto with the kind of “flat” tone associated with both Rollins and Coltrane (but not with Bird). Gonzales’ solo is right up there with Wyatt’s, exploring the changes with dazzling runs and fills in the first chorus, a bit sparser in the second. Then, surprise surprise, Wyatt returns but this time on soprano, and in the ride-out both he and Harrold are quite busy interacting with and complementing each other. This is wonderful jazz!
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