Anyone who has heard saxophonist Steve Wilson perform with Origin, Chick Corea's current ensemble, won't be surprised by the harmonic assurance the young reedman displays on this session, a cross-generation collaboration featuring pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Ben Riley. Beginning with Miller's appealing corkscrew theme "Small Portion," Wilson sounds thoroughly comfortable playing with his hand-picked cast of veterans on what proves to be a delightfully cohesive and engaging performance.
The surprises come later when Wilson begins to demonstrate his considerable skills as a composer in a series of colorfully varied settings. First up is "A Joyful Noise," a splendid showcase for Wilson's lithe soprano sax and a tune that exudes an insinuating charm even before Miller leisurely and elegantly expands upon the theme. Other Wilson compositions include "Chrysalis," which unfolds into a lovely tone poem for sax and piano; the flute-limned ballad "Wait"; and the rhythmically engaging Latin excursion "Trapaceria," which features Wilson's alto dancing over Riley's syncopated pulse.
Finally, when it comes time to interpret a classic, Wilson turns to the Billy Strayhorn gem "Chelsea Bridge" for inspiration. After unfurling a brief cadenza, he segues into the theme with an Ellingtonian flourish and then soulfully explores the melody against the dark backdrop created by Riley's tumbling tom-tom patterns. The result is a classy coda to a first class effort.
Appearing Tuesday at Blues Alley. To hear a free Sound Bite from Steve Wilson, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8108. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)