It is rare for someone to display as many unique pieces as Tony Wilson has on his new release “A Day’s Life.” Through the inclusion of beautiful ballads, intensity-building swing pieces, and experimental noise jams, Wilson has created an all encompassing modern jazz album that maintains excitement from start to finish.
One aspect of “A Day’s Life” that separates it from the pack is its use and depth of contrast. The album can be analyzed as a whole, in individual songs, and in groups of songs always resulting in a contrasting piece of sound that never becomes stale. When listened to in its entirety, “A Day’s Life” can essentially be seen as a series of ups and downs with quiet peaceful songs melting into energy-building, repetitive bass lines eventually turning into high-intensity, electronic explosions. These explosions digress into other ballads and interludes and the cycle begins again. Although the album is best when listened to all the way through, it can also be broken up into individual pieces and enjoyed just as vigorously. The piece “Two Tempos” is especially intriguing. By consistently combining a driving swing tempo and an out of time free feeling, “Two Tempos” truly epitomizes the notion of contrast in a short six minute period.
Another impressive aspect of this piece is the ensemble interaction. Despite the album having solos, Tony Wilson’s 6tet sounds like one entity throughout, which is due in part to Wilson’s composing style. Rather than writing a melody line with chords underneath that are used to solo over and beginning each piece with a clear head, he brings in his melodies at different intervals throughout the album and gives small cells within the ensemble time to interact with each other. In doing so, Wilson blurs the lines between solos and melodies resulting in a cohesive piece that builds in a very natural way.
“A Day’s Life” is truly a great modern jazz album and its mastery of contrasting elements is rare. The ensemble can clearly play in time and out of time, beautifully and harshly, and together and individually, but nothing is overdone and the final product is glorious.
-Review by Donovan Burtan