Rocky Wynder, Edwin & Catherine
The irony of longtime Knoxville saxophonist Rocky Wynder’s first (!!!) solo record is that it isn’t so much a solo record as it is a swinging celebration of Knoxville jazz. That, and the fact that the record is such a kick, are as much tribute to the octogenarian saxman’s savvy and sheer generosity of spirit as they are to his own fine playing.
With contributions from a who’s who of local luminaries, the highlights are non-stop. Pianist Donald Brown hits one of the peaks with his outre showcase on “Corcovado,” and contributes the album’s best song, the (sort-of) title cut “Catherine and Edwin,” a track that’s all hep-cat strut and indoor shades. Brown’s son Keith hits another, with his burning, helter-skelter piano solo on “Our Delight.” And normally restrained guitarist Mark Boling cuts loose with his monster chops on “Corcovado,” then rocks the wah-wah like a hard-bop Clapton on “Moving and Shakin’,” over Taylor Coker’s sexually charged bass percolations.
Which isn’t to say Wynder himself doesn’t have plenty of moments in the sun. The sax veteran plays it swinging and sprightly on the aforementioned tracks, but he really shines when the tempo slows, and Wynder can bring 81 years of life experience to bear on torch-song ruminations like “I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry.” Beautifully phrased, breathy, and achingly bittersweet, his solos remind us why Wynder is such a rare gem, a standout even on the generously apportioned tiara of Knoxville’s jazz scene.