Dan Wilson, Vessels of Wood and Earth Review
by Nolan DeBuke
Dan Wilson is a jazz guitarist and composer from Akron, Ohio, that found his early inspirations in Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian, Joe Pass, and George Benson. Stylistically, he drinks in the sounds of everything from gospel and blues to traditional jazz, hip-hop, and horn players like Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson. Wilson graduated from Hiram College, and released his recording debut with pianist Joe McBride and performed worldwide with Joey DeFrancesco and Christian McBride’s Tip City, which Wilson went on to earn a GRAMMY® Award nomination with for DeFrancesco’s Project Freedom album (Mack Avenue Records, 2017). Wilson has had the honor of sharing the stage with jazz greats, including Eric Marienthal, Russell Malone, Les McCann, René Marie, Jeff Hamilton, David Sanborn, and Dave Stryker. He also teaches jazz guitar and music theory through private lessons. Wilson is now releasing his debut album for legendary bassist/ composer Christian McBride’s Brother Mister label (and the imprint’s second release), with McBride as producer. The album is called Vessels of Wood and Earth, and Wilson is joined by Christian Sands, piano; Marco Panascia, bass; Jeff “Tain” Watts, drums; with guest musicians Joy Brown, vocals (6, 7, 9); and Christian McBride, bass (4, 8).
“Bird of Beauty” presents Wilson and company in a swirling composition that features Wilson at his best. The core trio of Panascia, Sands, and Watts is a force of nature and one that Wilson’s warm guitar tones float over in a relaxed stream of ideas. Wilson’s composition emphasizes motifs, and he gives plenty of space for each player to express themselves. Watts is the highlight of the track as his colors and interactions are outstanding.
“Who Shot John” has a grooving ostinato that opens the track. Wilson’s mellow tone sings the lovely melody, and Sands and Watts create the energy underneath him. Wilson performs a technically flawless solo with snaking lines as he weaves through the harmony and bounces rhythmic ideas off Sands and Watts. The feel is lovely and buoyant.
On Wilson’s Brother Mister label debut release Vessels of Wood and Earth, he indeed puts his good foot forward. He is accompanied by an outstanding ensemble, and McBride’s production on the album keeps a focus on feel and in the pocket grooves. Wilson has a fresh sound, and Vessels of Wood and Earth is a stunning debut for his new label home and his upward progress sounds like it will not plateau anytime soon.