Immanuel Wilkins, The 7th Hand Review
by Nolan DeBuke
Immanuel Wilkins is back with the follow-up to his debut album Mega, with a new project on the Blue Note Records label called The 7th Hand. The saxophonist and composer is joined by Micah Thomas; piano; Daryl Johns: bass; Kweku Sumbry: drums, and a guest appearance by Elena Pinderhughes: flute on tracks five and six. The ensemble presents seven selections that yield a satisfying musical journey with a blend of tensions, feels, and rhythmic explorations.
“Emanation” is a modern jazz exploration of melody and harmony. Wilkins’ alto saxophone soloing effortlessly plays with tension and release, further heightened by his artistic phrasing and articulation. A musical interlude sets up Thomas’ rolling piano solo that floats around modal colors against the harmony.
“Fugitive Ritual, Selah” has a straight-eight pulse with tinges of gospel. Sumbry’s brushwork is interactive and propels the feel with elegance and energy. Johns’ bass growls with sustain notes as Thomas colors under the melody. As the song progresses, Sumbry becomes more and more active. The theme acts as the unifying figure as Wilkins and Thomas add fills to build the shape and forward motion of the selection.
The 7th Hand is an emotional sophomore release for Wilkins on the Blue Note Records label. The set offers many angles, times of simplicity, and times of complexity. However, Wilkins shows that he is a master of balance, both as a player and as a leader.