Allow me to play mean hyper-critical critic for just a moment. Better yet, consider this a perspective on points to ponder when considering the latest offering from Ira Wiggins, When Freedom Swings. There is an immediate disconnect between the Don Ho inspired cover art and the hard swinging vibrant presentation contained inside. This two disc set has the ability to be packaged as two separate releases that present a bit more of a cohesive presentation. Including a Christmas song on a late spring release? I don't get it...But I don't have to.
Despite my issues with packaging and lets face it, we all have picked up a disc we may have been on the fence about simply because the packaging pushed us over the edge only to find out our hesitation was justified. Ira Wiggins rises above the points to ponder with a group of first call talent with a hard swing and musicality to match!
The standards here speak for them self, "Cherokee", "Bloomdido" and "In A Sentimental Mood" are all delivered with an infectious swing and panache that is often hard to come by. "Christmas Time Is Here" is also on disc two with the remainder of the standards and the great Cyrus Chestnut shines throughout. Disc one is a slightly more personal and "academic" look at the history of jazz and where Wiggins draws inspiration for this more cerebral presentation. Given that Ira Wiggins is the Director of Jazz Studies at North Carolina Central University it is of little wonder that a more historical context would come into play. Combine the academia with the fact Wiggins can hold his own on tenor sax with virtually any major label talent one can think of then you do indeed have the real deal. Wiggins mother once referred to his music as "Charlie Brown's Music" which is of course a comment even most critics could not slide in without a few heads turning. "Me and Momma Gone Fishin'" is a fitting tribute to his mother and the energy between the two is well apparent in this most engaging of compositions.
No recording is perfect any more than no critic has all the answers. The musical journey to find the answers is well worth the effort and so is When Freedom Swings!
Tracks: Disc 1 - As The Eagle Soars; Me and Momma Gone Fishin'; When Freedom Swings; People Make The World Go Round; Shepard's Song; Inner Urge. Disc 2 - Killer Joe; In A Sentimental Mood; Bloomdido; Cherokee; Christmas Time Is Here; Red Top.
Personnel: Ira Wiggins: tenor sax & flutes; Baron Tymas: guitar (1,3,4 disc 1); Jon Metzger; vibes & marimba (1,2,5 disc 1 and 5 disc 2); Cyrus Chestnut: piano (2,3,4,6 disc 1 and 1,2,3,4 disc 2); Ed Paolantonio: piano (1,5 disc 1 and 5,6 disc 2); Alvester Garnett: drums (2,3,4,6 disc 1 and 2,3,4 disc 2); Thomas Taylor: drums (1,5 disc 1 and 1,5,6 disc 2); Herman Burney: bass; Mavis "Swan" Poole: vocals 93,6 disc 1).