VOICES Notes and news on Jazz releases
16 JUL 12 ANNE FARNSWORTH
Hard bop tenor saxophonist Don Wilkerson was just 27 when Cannonball Adderley made him one of his producing projects for Riverside. Recorded on several dates in 1960 with Adderley's own all-star sidemen, The Texas Twister is raw, energetic and full of life.
One of the famed "Texas tenors" (Lone Star State natives noted for their big, muscular sound) Wilkerson toured and recorded with Ray Charles before hooking up with Adderley, who hired him for his own band. His solos on Charles classics like "I Got A Woman," "This Little Girl Of Mine" and "Hallelujah I Love Her So" marked him as an up and comer in the newly developing soul genre. It's that R&B background that distinguishes the offshoot hard bop from bebop.
Nat Adderley takes second chair, supporting Wilkerson as he did Cannonball on countless Adderley Brothers records. With one of my favorite pianists, Barry Harris, leading the rhythm section, Sam Jones and Leroy Vinnegar sharing the bass chair and the great Billy Higgins on drums, the set pulses with all the hard driving energy of the best of mid-century jazz. From the opening track, "The Twister," the band comes racing out of the chute and never lets up until the penultimate track, "Where Or When," a ballad that shines with sensitivity, lyricism and longing.
Playing Parker-style lightening fast bop lines on a tenor sax is no mean feat in comparison to the smaller, nimbler alto. Like Sonny Rollins and Benny Golson, Wilkerson's mastery of the instrument is a marvel to listen to. And with his soulful sensibility it's easy to see why Cannonball selected Wilkerson as his protégé.