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Album/DVD Review: Anthony Wilson - Seasons, Live at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

December 20, 2011
Anthony Wilson, featuring steve Cardenas, Chico Pinheiro, and Julian Lage
Seasons Live at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Goat Hill Recordings

Guitarist Anthony Wilson is a modern-day composer with an old-school ethos. His projects have ranged from the little big-band stylings of his nonet to the stripped-down earthiness of his organ trio. For the CD/DVD package Seasons, Live at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he performs as part of a guitar quartet where the instruments are as heralded as the musicians. The four instruments, handmade by luthier John Monteleone, each carry one movement of the song cycle that serves at the centerpiece of the album. Joining Wilson in the quartet is Brazilian guitarist Chico Pinheiro, young gun Julian Lage, and established veteran of the NYC jazz scene Steve Cardenas.

Opening with “Winter,” the group tackles the intricate counterpoint with the precision and empathy of a classical string quartet. Cardenas takes the lead on this movement and gives the first statement of the theme that pops up throughout the rest of the suite. With each movement, not only do the roles of the players change, but they also switch instruments with each guitarist taking a turn with each guitar. The pace changes to a joyful and slightly Latin feel with “Spring” and allows Pinheiro to demonstrate his ample chops and liquid feel.

After finishing the suite, each guitarist is given a chance to flex musical muscle in a solo feature that ties into the “seasons” theme. Lage’s interpretation of “April Kisses” shows his ability to defy genres and take the music to new and interesting places. The album ends with the group’s take on Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game,” which is a fitting end to this very successful experiment in matching the right tool for the right job.

Must-hear track: “Spring”