Marshall Gilkes & the WDR Big Band: Always Forward

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Maria Schneider once said that Marshall Gilkes was “One of those musicians who constantly just drops my jaw and leaves me shaking my head in disbelief”.

Listeners to his latest release will have a similar reaction because he is part of the virtuoso tradition established by J.J Johnson, Jimmy Cleveland, Bill Watrous, Phil Wilson and Frank Rosolino with a similar total command of the notoriously difficult trombone throughout his entire range.

He has recorded with John Fedchock, David Berger, Billy Cobham and Maria Schneider and this is his second date with the WDR Big Band – his first in 2014 (Koln) was Grammy nominated (Alternate Side Records 008). He has worked with the Vanguard and Duke Ellington orchestras and is currently a member of the classical trombone ensemble, The Slide Monsters.

Puddle Jumping opens with series of fanfares announcing the leader’s entrance. His dramatic arpeggios here with intervallic leaps make extensive use of pedal notes initially over sustained figures from the saxes. A transcription of this solo would be a rewarding study for any student of the trombone.

The uptempo “Easy to Love” has three inventive choruses from Johan Horlen with each book-ended by a rubato interlude for added interest. “Switchback” is a jazz-rock showcase for some pretty raunchy blowing from Karolina Strassmayer and Paul Heller. “Portrait of Jennie” from the 1948 film of the same name is a feature for the lyrical flugelhorn of Andy Haderer. The album concludes with another fine example of the leader’s fluency on the optimistically titled “Always Forward“. Special mention should be made of the WDR Big Band who rise as they always do to the challenge of interpreting demanding material.

Discography
Puddle Jumping; Easy to Love; Morning Smiles; Switchback; Lost Words; Denali Suite Part 1; Denali Suite Part 11; Denali Suite Part 111; Portrait Of Jennie; Always Forward (70.00)
Gilkes (tb, arr) with:
Andy Haderer, Bob Bruynen, Lorenzo Ludemann, Ruud Breuls, John Marshall (t, flh); Ludwig Nuss, Shannon Barnett, Andy Hunter (tb); Mattis Cederberg (btb); Johan Horlen, Karolina Strassmayer (as, f, cl); Olivier Peters (ts, cl); Paul Heller (ts, cl, bcl); Jens Neufang (bar, bcl); Simon Seidl (p); Paul Shigihara (elg); John Goldsby (b); Hans Dekker (d). Cologne, 4, 5, 6 September 2017.
Alternate Side Records 010