Julien Wilson Quartet – This Narrow Isthmus a Befitting Farewell

by Nolan DeBuke

Though recorded in 2014, it was only after Allan Browne’s death that Julien Wilson revisited the recordings and decided that this album should be released.  Thankfully for all of us, this decision was made.  Recorded live in Sydney on a promotional tour for his Bell Award winning CD This Is Always with the same personnel, the group performed a completely new set of eight Wilson originals.

The result, a fine quartet recording, brimming with sophistication and muscularity.  Wilson’s flowing fluid tenor; McAll’s scrumptious playing, supported by a dream team rhythm section, all add up to a major win. But, that being said – it takes worthy compositions to showcase quality players such as this and Wilson again proves he is a gifted composer. Prolific  melodic flair and the ability to compose in almost any style, is a key ingredient in this masterful recipe, the slow paced opener “Rainman” is an epilogue to the up-tempo “McGod” and continues through the list of tunes that continue to prove the groups overall like mindedness and Wilson’s keen composition ideas. He closes the album with the appropriately titled “Farewell” on clarinet further peaking my interest at the same time begging the question, why doesn’t he play it more often.

A welcome follow-up to the quartet’s award winning predecessor, and one that establishes Wilson with firm footing as one of the leading tenor saxophonist. In combination with McAll and the late Browne, the outcome of this recording is a fitting tribute to one lost in the musical journey, but a standing remembrance and a befitting farewell to a friend.

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