Come and See

Come and See

by Joe Lee Wilson


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Come and See

It may be true that vocalist Joe Lee Wilson is best known for his appearances on three of Archie Shepp's seminal albums, Things Have Got to Change, Cry of My People, and Attica Blues. That said, he also worked with many notable jazz artists before and after, from Sonny Rollins to Miles Davis, Lee Morgan, Jackie McLean, Pharoah Sanders, Clifford Jordan, and then some. Unfortunately, the recordings under his own name didn't do as well commercially, despite their intensely high aesthetic merit. These range from Livin' High Off Nickels and Dimes and Secrets from the Sun in the 1970s to Hey Look at You and Ballads for Trane in the 21st century (issued only in Japan and now out of print). Thankfully, Explore Records, the excellent jazz and classical music reissue label, has come to the rescue of many fine artists (not to mention jazz fans), and Joe Lee Wilson is one of them. In fact, this set, recorded in 1981 for Japan's Cheetah imprint -- but not issued until 2007 on Explore -- helps to fill in some of Wilson's missing years and is a genuine lost treasure in jazz. Come and See features Wilson in duet with the great and criminally under-recognized guitarist Jimmy Ponder (who has his own smokin' solo live album on the label as well). That's it -- no rhythm section, no saxophones, no nothing except for Ponder's brilliant accompaniment and that voice. On an album comprised of nine tunes, Wilson sings three originals and a slew of covers, including Bobby Sharp's "Who Among You" and Richie Cole's "It's the Same Thing Everywhere." Wilson's absolutely hip, unaffected, and mellifluous baritone can reach and project, but more often than not he's as intimate and warmly humorous as the friend sitting across from you over a cup of coffee. His knowledge of true jazz vocal styles and of the great American popular song tradition from the early blues singers to Oscar Brown, Jr., Jon Hendricks, and Leon Thomas (a peer) is stunning, but Wilson's style is all his own. His empathic phrasing, subtlety, and willingness to bend to suit the tune are poised and rewarding for the listener. Ponder's playing behind him -- and in his all too rare solo breaks -- is full, lush, and plenty; it creates an inside for the listener to enter the song with the singer. The set's closer, an original called "Nice and Easy," a snappy, gently swinging blues with a beautifully played intro by Ponder, showcases Wilson's ability to tell a story by speaking in the first person to a desired Other. As a listener, you'll find yourself rooting for him. Come and See is, at times, remarkable; it places Wilson in a major-league context (where he belongs) and treats fans of vocal jazz to something completely unusual and rare these days: a duet recording between a guitarist and a vocalist, both at the peak of their powers, playing a private concert and keeping you well back in your seat with your eyes closed, taking it all in with delight. Just heavenly.

Product Details

Release Date: 07/31/2007
Label: Explore Records
UPC: 0878914000245
catalogNumber: 24

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