Anson Wright & Tim Gilson – Ukiah's Lullaby (2009)

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by Pico

To say Anson Wright is diversely multi-talented is like saying that the sun is hot. This true rennaisance man who graduated from Princeton has drove taxis, built cabinetry, run a trucking company and written published novels and poetry. He also knows a thing or two about playing a guitar.

He’s learned guitar from such illustrious plectrists as Howard Roberts, John Stowell and Jerry Hahn, before performing on his own throughout the country and basing out of the rough-and-tumble environment of New York. Wright has also taught at NYU, Pacific University and Portland Community College. Portland (Oregon) is where he calls home these days.

Perhaps all his other activities is why Wright took a decade to follow up his first album State Of Grace (1999). On that outing, Wright took little chances then, leading a guitar-bass-drums combo and choosing mostly well-traversed standards for the song line-up. For the belated follow-up Ukiah’s Lullaby, Wright makes a couple critical changes. First off, the drums are dispensed with, and Wright’s only partner for this endeavor is bassist Tim Gilson. Secondly, there’s no standards, but all originals; six by Wright and four by Gilson. Both of these adjustments makes for a more intimate, more personal affair.

As the co-leader of this album, Gilson merits a little mention of his background as well. Gilson came from the Portland area, before his career took him to locales like Los Angeles and Wisconsin before returning to the Northwest again. During this time, Gilson has played and recorded with the Mel Brown Quintet, Mose Allison, Bud Shank and Herb Ellis. Like Wright, Gilson is a teacher as well as performer.

Duet albums typically rely heavily on the interaction of the two players, and the empathy between Wright and Gilson guarantees that this record is not going to be a bad one. Wright’s guitar, with a clean presentation and notes delivered poetic, unfussy fashion draws numerous comparisons to Jim Hall. There’s no disputing that the soft tempo of these songs doesn’t change throughout the entire record, maintaining it’s ice-cool vibe for the entire sixty-one minutes and twenty-nine seconds.

Thus, the thing that’s going to distinguish Ukiah’s Lullaby are the songs themselves and the ability to stick in the listeners mind long after the last note is played. While none of these tunes are destined to become standards, several of them do have staying power, especially the first three cuts. “Ukiah’s Lullaby” is well anchored by Gilson’s thoughtful bass lines, and Wright spins off bird-like expressions from his guitar. Gilson’s “The Healer” is a perky, buoyant number, but in keeping with the gentle mood of the album, not overly so. “Orion” is clearly derived from Miles Davis’ “So What,” but imaginatively reworked with a busier bass pattern. Wilson exploits one of of jazz’s greatest grooves with controlled, crisp notes, before handing off to Gilson’s bluesy solo.

The rest of the repertoire might not be quite as memorable, but are rendered just as well as the earlier selections. Most notably, Gilson doubles on bowed bass for “Sometimes There Are No Words,” however, and makes a pretty good showing at that.

Taking in Wright and Gilson’s Ukiah’s Lullaby, available through Saphu Records, is like sipping a cup of hot cocoa in front of fireplace on a cold winter’s night: a relaxing low-key undertaking that satisfies the soul by its warm, assuring temperament.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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