Back in high school, I was a rock or nothing kind of dude. If it wouldn’t strip the paint off of the walls and piss off my parents, I wasn’t interested. Forget diversity, I wanted it loud. Like most of the trappings of youth, except for maybe my obsession with Wilma Flintstone, it didn’t last and I “graduated” to a higher plane of musical existence. I began to discover the value of other art forms and the value of having a varied, wicked cool collection sitting proudly on my shelf.
Sarah Wilson isn’t trapped by genres and is one of the most diverse players I’ve ever heard – plus, her trumpet may just be able to strip the paint off the walls with its razor-sharp attack.
Her Trapeze Project, sadly the first encounter I’ve had with the work of the composer/trumpet, is a wonderful record. Sarah plays, sings, composes, and leads with precision and an indelibly adventurous spirit.
“My music is different because of how it was initially created,” she says. “People who play jazz or know jazz often say that what I do isn’t jazz. Then other people say it sounds like jazz to them. I actually kind of like being in this in-between space where I can do whatever I want.”
It would seem to me that that in-between space is where all artists should aspire to exist, so it’s encouraging that Wilson embraces it with such enthusiasm. And that enthusiasm, that refusal to play ball, shines through on this album.
Wilson is joined by clarinetist Ben Goldberg, pianist Myra Melford, drummer Scott Amendola, and bassist Jerome Harris.
Trapeze Project opens with “Blessing,” a light piece that energizes the record from the opening paces. It’s a tremendous starting point that sets the foundation for Wilson’s exploration of American, Balkan and Persian music.
“She Stands in a Room” teases what’s to come, with Wilson’s vocals outlining the melody charmingly. When she springs her vocals sensitively on tracks like “Melancholy for Place” and “From the River” later on, we remember the second track.
Where Trapeze Project really takes a turn, though, is with the incredible rendition of “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” The Joy Division cover is delivered with solemn grace and Wilson proves she is one hell of a vocalist. It is a stripped-down piece that benefits greatly from the work of Harris’ bass. His rich playing underlines the magnificence in Wilson’s voice in ways that almost draw tears.
Wilson’s Trapeze Project is a strikingly diverse record that bravely wanders into spaces that most jazz recordings leave alone. Genre trappings be damned, this is what music is all about. It’s encouraging, delightfully encouraging, to come across an artist assuredly exploring and cheerfully traipsing over the boundaries.
Article originally published as I Hear Sparks: Sarah Wilson – Trapeze Project at Blogcritics.org