Guitarist/Composer Dan Wilson Calls Attention to the
Beauty of Often Ignored Structural Foundations
of Music and Life with Debut Label Release
Vessels of Wood and Earth, Due April 23,
Marks Second Release on Christian McBride’s Mack Avenue Music Group Imprint, Brother Mister Productions
Wilson Joined by Christian Sands, Marco Panascia,
Jeff “Tain” Watts, and Guest Vocalist Joy Brown
In today’s society, perception over reality influences everyday life. Grand offerings of seemingly luxurious lifestyles flood social channels, offering a glimpse of false security and achievement that rarely lie on a strong foundation. Just as a beautiful house is finished with vessels of silver and gold, underneath lies wood and earth.
On his marvelous new album, Vessels of Wood and Earth, guitarist/composer Dan Wilson takes the title to mean that we as a society tend to look at the shiny exteriors that attract us in an instant, rather than appreciate the less readily apparent structures that actually support the house. Through 11 joyfully dynamic compositions ranging from takes on classic songs from Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Ted Daffan mixed with a nod to the spiritual master John Coltrane as well as five original compositions, Wilson builds a foundation rooted as much in tradition as it is in moving the music irresistibly forward into the modern world.
Joined by pianist Christian Sands, bassist Marco Panascia, drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts and guest vocalist Joy Brown, the virtuosic guitarist’s broad musical roots inspired by Motown, gospel and jazz tradition result in a remarkable feel for arrangements. Wilson’s musical explorations allow the band to elevate each passage, aided by his fluid and melodic expression.
Due out April 23, the vividly expressionist recording finds Wilson in the purest of creative strides. “I try to elicit the same kind of visceral response to the music that I get in my gut while making it,” comments Wilson. “I want to convey the joy I get out of making the music.” That joy is deeply rooted in his musical beginnings in the church community, where he was quickly immersed in the rich gospel tradition. But at home, he was exposed to a wealth of music from his father, who played drums and bass, and his mother, a gifted singer.
“My parents loved Motown,” states Wilson. “My father only played at church, never at home, but my mother’s influence on me was amplified by her knowledge of standards and incredible memory for recalling lyrics and God-given natural talents as a singer.” Wilson’s parents exposed him to the great singers like Dinah Washington, Gloria Lynn, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, which he credits for his arioso approach to solos.
This strong sense of familial leadership continued when Wilson’s uncle introduced him to the world of jazz through the music of Wes Montgomery and his duets with jazz organist Jimmy Smith. “I was maybe 14 or 15,” Wilson reflects, “and my uncle took me into his basement and played me Wes and Jimmy and I was like, ‘Oh, this is it for me. I want to do that! I just want to do that forever.”
Wilson’s career took him on an exploratory journey into those foundations laid down by the guitar/organ tradition, eventually leading to an invitation to perform with jazz great Joey DeFrancesco’s quartet with which Wilson went on to earn a GRAMMY® Award nomination for DeFrancesco’s Project Freedom album (Mack Avenue Records, 2017). This collaboration allowed the guitarist to insert his own dialect into the musical prowess and respect that DeFrancesco had earned throughout his journey. Wilson had been playing with DeFrancesco for a few years when he met bassist, composer, arranger, Christian McBride. “It was just like the first time I met Joey – magic. We played three tunes and from note one, it was like ‘Yeah, we were born to play together.’” From there, Wilson went on to tour with McBride’s trio Tip City, eventually leading McBride to serve as producer on Vessels of Wood and Earth and release the album on his newly formed imprint Brother Mister Productions through Mack Avenue Music Group.
“He’s the same as a producer as he is as a person – what you see is what you get,” laughs Wilson. “Christian understands what it means to be both a band leader and sideman, so he’s got that unique musical perspective. I’m grateful to experience both the shock and the honor of being on Christian’s label.”