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Last Option

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Album Review

Eight Bold Souls have been one of the finest and most under-appreciated jazz ensembles in Chicago since their inception in 1985. Plagued by an astonishing lack of interest from record labels, leader Ed Wilkerson was considering reviving his own Sessoms imprint when he was introduced to Bettina Richards, head of famed independent record label, Thrill Jockey. This unlikely pairing has led to Eight Bold Souls' finest album to date. Last Option was recorded by Casey Rice (Tortoise, Eleventh Dream Day, Joan of Arc) at Steve Albini's famed Electrical Audio Recording. Due to the design of the room, the band was able to perform as a unit, all in the same space, with no headphones or baffling to separate musicians, and the results are stellar. Every instrument can be heard clearly, even while the full ensemble is playing. Wilkerson's compositions and arrangements are the true star of the show, with everyone in the band playing beautifully in service to the compositions. He's a democratic composer as well, with everyone but tuba player Gerald Powell getting at least two solo spotlights apiece. Wilkerson covers a great deal of musical territory as well. "Third One Smiles" has a tasty second line rhythm, contrasted with the chamber jazz-oriented piece, "Art of Tea," which features Naomi Millender's cello up front with Harrison Bankhead's bass. "Pachinko" could be used to good effect as music for a chase scene, and "Brown Town" swings like nobody's business. Every soloist is up to the task, with special mention going to Robert Griffin Jr.'s trumpet and Mwata Bowden's clarinet (especially on the spiralling title cut).

Last Option is largely successful in capturing the excitement of the band's live shows. With an interested label and a more representative recording, let's hope Eight Bold Souls begin to receive the recognition they deserve.

Biography

Formed: January, 1985

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Perhaps it's because he stayed put in Chicago while so many of his AACM colleagues moved to New York, or maybe because he's a bit younger than his more well-known compatriots, but tenor saxophonist Edward Wilkerson Jr. has never gotten the exposure his talents deserve. In the '80s, when N.Y.C.-based saxophonist and bandleader David Murray was getting raves for his octet work, Wilkerson's 8 Bold Souls were making music every bit as profound. Indeed, Wilkerson's outfit outshone Murray's in many ways...
Full bio
Last Option, 8 Bold Souls
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