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Jason Wilson – Perennials (Wheel)

Jason Wilson - Perennials
29 March 2017

A native of Toronto’s Downsview neighborhood, Ontario’s two-time Juno Award-nominated pianist/singer Wilson is no slacker. Not only is he a Canadian Reggae Music Award winner, but he’s also got a PhD in Canadian history, is an adjunct professor at the University of Guelph, and has written five books. (His 2012 Soldiers of Song documents The Dumbells, Canada’s comedic concert parties who entertained troops in the trenches during World War I; he’s currently co-authoring the official centenary book of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, founded in 1917.) This is his sixth album since 1998’s Dark Corners with older outfit Tabarruk (whose 1989 self-titled cassette EP featured Jamaica’s renowned Skatalites and Studio One label keyboardist Jackie Mittoo, while an about-to-hit-it-big Alanis Morissette sang one song with Wilson on the group’s also-eponymous 1994 follow-up EP), and follows his 2014 LP with Fairport Convention’s late fiddler Dave Swarbrick (1941-2016), Lion Rampant.

After a terse, 43-second take on Thelonious Monk’s 1941 “Epistrophy” to open the album, Wilson settles into his signature style: blending breezy reggae with brassier jazz/bebop. He skillfully switches between both on the snappy “Gertrude” and smooth, Belle & Sebastian-meets-Bob Marley “Gotham (You Feel Like the Only One),” delivering his stylish, silky vocals amid the revitalizing horns of Marcus Ali and Patrice Barbanchon. Elsewhere, other styles are stitched in: “Jellyby” summons ‘70s soul/funk, “Mirage” mixes classical, English folk, prog, and klezmer, and “Rummlegumption (When I’m Down You Lift Me Up)” fuses Dixieland, jump blues, and ska, while Wilson’s warm, wheezing accordion wafting through “Juno” gives it an Italian flavor. With pristine production illuminating Wilson’s pretty, playful, and penetrating piano intonations, Perennials is a polished, ear-pleasing pastiche. (jasonwilsonmusic.com)

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