Boundless: That which has no walls or borders. Infinite, time. Space. Jazz.
We've been listening to much jazz for quite a while now. I know it's the only music I'll spend money on, but today, the crags of the critics concerning Smooth Jazz, to some degree I have to agree on. Some of our artists do sound a little too commercial; a bit too contrived. Sometimes I wonder where has all the magic gone. Did Dizzy, Davis and Tatum die and take their muse with them? Questions, all questions tied up in time. That's OK 'cause time is boundless and jazz it timeless.
Once in a long while, from an island somewhere, something, someone traditionally solid and worthy to carry on the torch comes along. Scott Wilkie, and this debut CD "Boundless", is worthy of that torch. Scott composes with a passion for the art and has created an album that is steeped in history and adds a mixture of gospel, classical, rock and best of all, jazz. This concoction culminates into something rich with sound and depth of harmony. The melody and meter of his compositions sets him in a contemporary field the likes of which is guarded by Bob James and Ramsey Lewis. It's been quite some time now where I've been able to enjoy a new and upcoming artist who likes to visit "3rd stream" music. Because of this, I think it's time to go back to school on musical terminology and hope you'll come along.
When I received an email from Scott Wilkie a few months back, He said he liked my site and wanted to know if I would review his upcoming CD. He gave me his web page address and asked if I'd click by and give him a listen. While doing so I thought, "Here we go again" as the page loaded but remembered back to the fall of last year when I got the same request from jazz artist Glenn McNulty . A welcome aside to the usual he was.
What I found at Scott's site were a few short snippets of music that only whetted my appetite for more. They left me wondering what else Mr. Wilkie had up his musical sleeve. When I finally got the chance to listen to the CD in its entirety last week, I had to admit, the dynamic feel, texture and separate movements caught me out. Catching my ear first were the key changes, structure and arrangements on each of these recordings. Stick around, you'll see what I mean.
With introductory intent, Scott sports "Sporty"! Scott and "Sporty" bound from the "barrelhouse" in a flurry. I'm sure you can tell good piano when you hear it. What I like most about this song and the other Scott compilations is how he covers himself with all kinds of keyboards. Others may do the same but Scott's voice is dependent on the technique of harmonics, not necessarily the melody, over overdubbing or sampling. Our first term, "extended harmony" is the use of extra tones added to a general chord. Scott uses this play to the utmost. Throughout the CD, I've found this to be Scott's trademark. He layers textures in such a way that builds on the tonal total of the song. "Sporty" says hello to the world from the right side of the bed and with general good feelings. It's a pretty cool and even-handed 4/4 jump that swings spiritually. Scott plays "frontman" on each phrase, switching from acoustic piano over to its electronic counterpoint. "Straight time" to the tag, "Sporty" has nothing on the sound of a sanctified Southern Baptist Church at full pipe. Amen!
Transplanted like most others, Scott is originally from suburban Detroit. In Detroit, he formed a band called "Separate Checks" and they played the circuit there between 1985 and 1991 before he moved to Southern California. He has been world hopping ever since. I also like to travel and when I was in the military, I moved every two to three years. The best thing about all that moving about was being back home again.
A "ballad" is simply a simple song. Usually it's romantic in nature and uses the same melody for each stanza. Track two's ballad, "Home Again" , is definitely romantic and ultimately breeds good nature. Listen as the beginning delicately dance under the touch of Scott adept fingers. "Home Again" is that thought on the train, looking out the window and through the passing trees, wondering if she's changed. Stepping off, you see her. The soft vocal background by Penny Malley calls you closer and Jeff Kashiwa kisses you with his sax. Jeff is out of The Ripington's stable. I saw him on his first concert tour with the group in Raleigh a few years back. He's very gifted and plays a multitude of woodwind instruments. His style of playing is a good compliment to the live feel Scott intended to create with this CD. He's since moved on to enterprise his own endeavor.
If you've ever spent some time next to the shore you'll know what a Sailcat is. A Sailcat is a sailboat with a catamaran hull. They are fast, maneuverable and often times seen upturned when things really get going. Track three is Scott's rendition of the feeling you get when out, in, on, or hanging off the side of one. "Sailcats" rushes off the beach and bounces on the bass popped by John Patitucci. Hear the surf as it rolls in? Dave Kochanski organizes the organ's organics. "Stop time!!" Everyone gathers the sheets in anticipation for Scott's first solo, which he does so in fine fashion. Scott is very quick with his fingers. At the "bridge" everyone stops time again and "percusses" till Paul Jackson Jr. rips the sails with a lead guitar solo. The boom swings to the other side of "Sailcats" when the rhythm section "half times" it up to another solo, propagates the "petal point", then flips onto the melody's keel again. If you want to ride on a "cat", be prepared to get wet. "Sailcats", like the blown namesake, will have you sweatin' with satisfaction. Two hulls up!
"Rivertown" is dear to my heart. As you've been reading, I love the water. The town I live in has a river running through it and it's where I've done a lot of the writing you're reading right now. To me, there and beside the ocean's soothing flow seems to calm my ever-active spirit. I took Scott's CD down to the waterway the other day and keyed it up just to see how his piano would affect the other college students. The water reflecting the sun's cloudless glistening and "Rivertown" was all some people needed to let their inhibitions subside and publicly prance their love for each other. I counted three couples sitting close the music. One couple even came up and asked who was playing at the time and if I'd mind them sitting next to me to get a better listen. My river town doesn't have access to "outside" jazz over the airways and it's not too often you can hear it being played. I had my own concert! Thanks Scott.
Scott says what he wanted to accomplish with this CD was to create a live band feel on a recorded album.
"Boundless" is a collection of songs that I've written in the past several years. I wanted to record an album that captures some of the energy and fun of a live performance... keeping a raw funky edge to the grooves. The album was recorded at BeachMusic (my home studio), and at several other studios in southern California. All of the piano tracks were recorded at David Benoit's place on his 7.5' concert grand. I mixed the record at Chick Corea's Mad Hatter Studio in Hollywood with my good friend and brilliant engineer Dave Knight."This is one CD where I can say this was realized.
Brian Culbertson , when I saw him in concert, I found his music to sound the same live as it did on the CD. In a concert situation, this style of playing leads to no surprises but allows the audience to really get a feel of "Yea, I've heard that before" as they turn, look to each other and point. He and Scott say they set out to pull off the same musical idea but the end differs by the means. Brian a fellow keyboardist, records in a manner that is very restrained in the use of overdubs and sequencers also. The resulting compilations sometimes sound sort of "homophonic" and can be easily reproduced. Scott, on the other hand, arranges his music with his intent set on that "live" sound and feel. When listening to his CD, you undergo an experience not unlike one received at a true live performance. The texture is more "polyphonic", more "polytonal", where there may be two or more melodies going on at the same time. The "collective improvisations" of the band show the bond formed by the group in the studio. It's not just the "You play this here and I'll do this there" kind of "call and response" dished out by other performers.
As a kid aged 12, Scott caught the jazz bug early after seeing a jazz trio in action. He's quoted as saying during a Cjazz interview,
"I remember thinking how cool that was feeling the bass and drums, seeing the guys interact, hearing the role that piano could play in a band."He studied classical piano during these formative years and by high school and college he was already on "Fender-Rhode". When in LA and working with the Roland Corporation, he put together a group called The Scott Wilkie Band and they started doing demos. That's when Narada came knocking. Of the guest artists articulating accompaniment, Scott says in another interview:
"I was thrilled to have some of my favorite musicians play on "Boundless." Each of them added something unique and exciting to the record, and it was fun to hear my music evolve with the addition of their creativity. Every guest artist on "Boundless" is on the record because I feel that they are the best at what they do and I really dig how they play."Even though he was surrounded by stardom, Scott never lost his regular band's roots. When asked if "Boundless" sounds like the sonics of the SWB band, Scott simply answers "Yes, absolutely!" The core band consists of Matthew Von Doran (guitars), Nathan Brown (bass) and Dave Owens (drums). Scott says of them, "They are not only great musicians, but also great friends."
With all this going on, Scott always held fast to Where he came from. Track five, "Chasing The Dream" is a "boogie-woogie" type tune transfixed with the ostentatious "ostinato" bombasticly boomed by bassist Nathan Brown. Scott rides the "riff" with one Roland and makes melody with another. After the "hook", Scott improvising impressively, starting out going gospel then quickly running the "runs" amuck. David Owens taps out a "syncopated" situation on the cymbals and snare, the Rippington's Russ Freeman with Paul Jackson Jr. teaming up in the background. Closing out, Jeff sound solo while Scott breaks the "backbeat".
Inside the sleeve Scott gives thanks to his parents for keeping the dream alive. I can relate. Parents seem to have a way of doing that.
Nothing yet? Sometimes walking alone down the beach isn't so bad. You get to let your mind wander a bit. Strolling solitarily, I watch the birds eat bread from the kid's hand, pick up shells for the tank. Sun behind and surf before, the tune takes its time talking to my mind. It's cool to have "Nothing Yet" . Active inactivity. Feet sucked in the sand to the point of surf's surfacing. I watch the boats round the sea buoy while Cape Hatteras Lighthouse stands sentinel, waiting for its move. The music flows in swells around you as it takes you in the undertow.
I asked Scott how he came up with the title to this tune. He responded,
"It's a very simple song that I wrote many years ago (one of my first). No idea what the inspiration was... it was a long time ago. The title happened because it never had a name during rehearsals, so whenever someone said "What's that tune called?"... the answer was Nothing Yet..."When Cjazz said this CD was infectious, it must have been
On "Reverie" , Scott demonstrates what the word "period" means in music. Here, it's not the end of a sentence, but the beginning or a movement through time. Boundlessly daydreaming, Reverie's soft pretty clouds float down to meet the horizon. Like puffs of wonderment, the song takes you to that far off place where dreams are born. Movements of melodic mental bliss surge as your synapses fire free form, flung into infinity. Reverie builds "arrhythmic" castles in the sky. Scott's polyphonic punctuation is perfect conversation's self-exposed. Answer the call of "higher harmonics". Come swim with dolphins, play in the keys. Sail off to that same harbor spoken about. Here you hear Dave Grusin's influences coming out in the minds migration or David Benoit along the Milky Way, freed at midnight. Sunsets are the brain's cinematic cyanonide to conditions contraire.
Critics ask that on some jazz CDs, a little jazz be played. PLEASE! I don't like making comparisons 'cause I'm sure to hit someone's nerve or two but at times, you have to make a point. Some have compared Scott to John Tesh. Ok, it's the artistry Scott, but if I were to characterize something it would be the feel given to what has been written. Scott feels like David Benoit in the way he composes and arranges. Every jazz artist from the start is out to create his/her own distinctive sound. It's something hard to describe but Scott has sure fashioned something uniquely his own. What it is falls into the category of intangible. It's one of those things that are hard to nail down but it's there.
Hit it! On "Those" , Scott sweats the synth. It's an uptempo ride that moves through one theme to another. Hear what I mean about two melodies happening at the same time? While he and Jeff take the top mood, Scott keys in something that would pass for someone else's total show under it all. He doesn't even follow the standard "AABA" format whose foundation others are fond of. ABC, solo, hook, A. Learning about jazz yet? Chuck Yamek's guitar solo tells you all about it as he ends this "open ended" rant for rambunctious revelers. "Those" is for those who appreciate good, solid jazz that's timeless, timeless as a love letter written to that love not so long ago.
Scott sections off part of this CD for someone named Shari. When I asked Scott who Shari was, he answered,
"She was my girlfriend in High School; first song that I ever wrote for someone."I've done the same for mine. No, not directly musically, but I've used music like, if not the same song as, a "Song For Shari" to help time my pass. Two people propped on a tailgate, bleeding hearts spilled like sober soup fresh from the kitchen, words of true conviction roll off the soul. "I need music like this to help me concentrate on what to say". My Shari amore and I renegotiate rememberings and I'm sorrys as friends stroll by doing the same. Again, both are at the river's edge, trying to hold back the eye's orifice from overflowing. Yes you, this song knows me. It feels me. Peter Sprague's nylon-string guitar guides me. Scott knows what to say, tomorrow for today, restlessly resting the night away. Can't sleep.
Song For Shari is another simple song, a ballad, built on by Scott's love for the lyrical. Fool's gold somehow made priceless, poured out by perseverance and David Owens on powdery percussion. This type of music makes saying I love you a lot sweeter, but things understood don't need to be explained, right?
Sailcats is to sailing as "Poolside" is to power boating. Skipping across the melody like a deep "vee" in minor 'G', "Poolside" showcases Scott's ability to tow the line when the 'C's are coming fast and furious. Running from key coast to coast, Scott's fingers trim the tune as it bounces from this scale to the next. Fathomlessly, ballastless, Scott floats notes in between each other, showcasing a touch you won't find much of his contemporaries even thinking about. Scott sinks deep in "syncopation", it's the cup runneth over.
Time. Things seem only relevant in time. It's what's time; it's whose time. All things want to control time. The bottomless, beautiful time only in God's time. Where's time. Out there, in there, up there? What's downtime? Overtime? Again, time is Boundless.
What happens to time? Time builds like a "Water Balloon" , gathers in waterfalls. Its raindrops coalesces then climb skyward. Building columns of canvassing chemicals clung together by cohesion. Time builds. Thunder rumbles! Sparks of light flash in the failing sunlight then rains. Rains, down from above in heavenly floods that move everything, every thing, eve-'re-thing.
Key drops of rhythm hit leaves of intentions, crashed by the splash of David Owens on drums. Scott rumbles the bottom eights again and it's like opening the grave of Art Tatum who's ticked by time till the second phrase stops time. Another clock corners in. Beethoven's brethren bubbles out as his fifth to the faith's party continues. Scott backs to the our time, the yo' time, the right time in no time as the group "shouts" to tea time, right through to the tag time that demands no "clam" time.
Tell me this isn't "live' time.
Now it's your time.