Digital’s

Hot & Mighty Twister

26 MAY 10 CHRIS SLAWECKI

From his adopted Houston hometown, Don Wilkerson blew big and hot "Texas tenor" saxophone in support of such blues and rhythm 'n' blues greats as Charles Brown, B. B. King and Ray Charles. Yet he recorded a relatively small handful of his own sessions. Wilkerson's first was produced by Cannonball Adderley. The Texas Twister (OJC, 2001) featured Cannonball's brother Nat on cornet, pianist Barry Harris and drummer Billy Higgins, with Sam Jones and Leroy Vinnegar swapping bass -- the classic bop quintet format.

The Texas Twister's first three tunes whiz past so fast you might check your ears for blisters. It jumps right out of the gate with Higgins and Wilkerson firing up "The Twister," percolates a strong and invigorating "Morning Coffee," sweetened and lightened by Adderley's and Harris' solos, and then boils over into "Idiom." When Adderley sits out the one ballad, "Where Or When," Wilkerson's tenor sound seems to balloon large enough to fill a big band ballroom full of romances and slow dances.

Tenor and cornet harmonize in the classic sweet yet tangy sound of bebop. All three soloists sing in tones that sound rock solid in jazz, blues, and rhythm 'n' blues styles, and it's no wonder that this session required two bassists. These tempos wore them out!

You can also hear Wilkerson's mighty tenor roar through Concord's 2010 repackage of Brother Ray's classic Genius + Soul = Jazz, and his alto sing on Keely Smith's 2001 tribute Keely Sings Sinatra (Concord Jazz, 2001).

in this playlist.