“The Seventh Hand”
The young Philadelphia alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, a trusted sideman of vibist Joel Ross, retains the sounds of church and street he heard growing up in Philadelphia in his exciting quartet. On its albums for Blue Note his group brings spiritual jazz, by turns fiery and meditative, into the present.
Immanuel Wilkins: “The Seventh Hand”
The thrilling young Philadelphia alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins – who played in the band led by Joel Ross from New York during the 2020 online edition of Jazzfest Berlin – makes his festival debut as a leader in support of his sublime 2022 album “The 7th Hand”, his second recording for Blue Note Records. While rooted in post-bop fundamentals, his agile music is thoroughly contemporary in its attack and range of influences, enfolding a mixture of gospel and free jazz elements into its simultaneously airy, groove-oriented aesthetic. Wilkins composed the album as a musical expression of religious “vesselhood”, symbolizing the notion of musicians as mere vehicles for a spiritual release that takes over. But even without that conceptual underpinning there’s no missing the emotional and spiritual depth on display, whether the gospel-drenched ballad “Fugitive Ritual, Selah” the propulsive Afro-Cuban grooves of “Don’t Break”, or the furtive noir-ish grace of “Shadow”. The last half of the album is occupied by “Lift”, an ecstatic workout in which the divine guides the musicians toward collective freedom, for 26 scalding minutes. The saxophonist leads a nimble combo with pianist Micah Thomas, drummer Kweku Sumbry and bassist Rick Rosato.
Immanuel Wilkins alto saxophone
Micah Thomas piano
Rick Rosato bass
Kweku Sumbry drums