Dan Wilson | On Vessels of Wood and Earth Review
by Jeff Becker
Guitarist Dan Wilson returns with his new album and his debut for bassists Christian McBride’s label Brother Mister; the album is titled On Vessels of Wood and Earth. Joining the guitarist/composer is Christian Sands, piano; Marco Panascia, bass; and Jeff “Tain” Watts, drums. Special guests are Joy Brown, vocals (6, 7, 9); and Christian McBride, bass (4, 8). Wilson has toured with Joey DeFrancesco, one of the all-time greatest jazz organists, and McBride’s trio, Tip City. On Vessels of Wood and Earth features Wilson fronting eleven tunes that range from standards to originals.
“The Rhythm Section” is an up-tempo bop-influenced melody that features a motif centered around Tain’s drumming. Wilson brings the heat for his solo; his fast lines are even, clear, and harmonically accurate. The rhythm section swings hard, and Wilson plays from phrase to phrase, with little space, leading to a repeated figure that acts as a climax. Sands’ approach is more melodic, as he builds motifs and uses space to allow for breaths. A high-energy start to get the set going.
Pat Metheny’s “James” is a duet between Wilson and Panascia. Wilson’s approach to the melody is proper to Metheny’s vision; although not as smooth and lyrical, Wilson still makes it his own. His solo is technically brilliant. His sixteenth notes are flawless, and his use of chromatic lines is also invigorating. However, the chordal section at the end of his solo loses the drive and fluidity of his single lines. Panascia’s bass solo incorporates the blues and space beautifully.
On Vessels of Wood and Earth is a step in the next direction for Wilson. The ensemble is outstanding, and the recording and mixing are top-shelf. Wilson’s tendency of streaming ideas together is a challenging style to pull off; very few guitarists can musically do this. Pat Martino’s ability to play choruses of connected ideas with little space is the pinnacle. Still, On Vessels of Wood and Earth has many high points and will reward a deep jazz aficionado.