The Dave Wilson Quartet mixes things up on “One Night at Chris'”

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“One Night at Chris'” by The Dave Wilson Quartet is the fifth release by the ensemble. The recording features a mix of original and cover tunes. Bandleader and saxophonist, Dave Wilson has put together a special collection of unexpected, but overall, pleasing array of songs. But, the special alchemy the music creates does not just stem from the presence of different types of tunes on the album.

What is noteworthy is the choice of songs that The Dave Wilson Quartet have covered. All of the cover songs are unexpected. Each offers listeners a bit of insight into the style and perhaps the inspiration of the quartet members.

The recording was made live at the eponymous Philadelphia venue, Chris’ Jazz Café. The café, 1421 Sansom St., is host to a variety of jazz shows. The songs included on “One Night at Chris'” have been captured in one take – – no overdubs, no retakes. The result is a recording that crackles with liveliness and a verve that resonates with the traditions of jazz, even when the group is taking on songs that are from rock and pop traditions.

Aside from his work with the quartet, Wilson recorded solo projects that were critically received. “Spiral” (2010) and “There Never Was” (2016) received national airplay and “There Never Was” reached No. 18 on the Jazz Weekly countdown.

The Dave Wilson Quartet and the sound of “One Night at Chris'”

The 10 tracks on “One Night at Chris'” are comprised of four originals and six cover songs. Among the cover songs, and definitely among the tracks not to be missed are “My Own Prison” (originally performed by rock band Creed) and “Biggest Part of Me,” the 1980 hit by Ambrosia.

While the covers are lively, the Wilson original, “Ocean Blues” kicks off the recording and it mixes jazz and blues in a romp of a song that shows audiences what the Dave Wilson Quartet is about.

Probably the biggest surprise on the album is “My Own Prison.” Wilson’s saxophone takes the lyrical line and the entire piece is faster than the original. The saxophone and piano take the forefront of the soundscape and the piano showcase is a nice touch. The clattering drums provide enough grounding without drowning out the other essential elements.

Throughout, there are moments when the saxophone notes are a bit longer and expressive. Toward they end they are also deeper. Then, Wilson mixes up approaches. The song always feels like jazz, even to those who are familiar with the original rock song. The Dave Wilson Quartet breathes new life into a song that audiences might have forgotten about since its release in the 1990s.

“Biggest Part of Me” is sublimely beautiful. Lush passages of twinkling piano and expressive saxophone put a new spin on the pop-rock love song. For audiences who have heard the song before, Wilson and company’s rendition is a refreshing take on it. The song sounds like contemporary jazz. The instrumentation does some ad libs at the end that reminds listeners that this is a jazz quartet playing. The piano runs, the drum tattoo and the bass’ gentle, but obvious rhythms engage listeners until the end, in a manner of playing that is associated with the Dave Wilson Quartet. Then, just when it seems the song is over, the melody of the original comes back.  “Biggest Part of Me” is a masterful re-working of a classic and fun to listen to.

The Dave Wilson Quartet consists of Dave Wilson on tenor and soprano saxophones, Kirk Reese on piano, Tony Marino on acoustic bass and Dan Monaghan on drums.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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