Melbourne saxophonist Julien Wilson has stood out as an exceptional talent since winning the National Jazz Awards at Wangaratta in 1994 when he was just 22. Since then he has been heard with a wide range of bands and released a dozen CDs as leader or co-leader, many of them with guitarist Stephen Magnusson. He has become known for groups that focus on original material, lots of improvisation and often unusual instrumentation, such as Assumptions and his trio with guitar and accordion.
For the first time, Julien has assembled a ‘classic jazz quartet’ with the dream team of Barney McAll (piano), Jonathan Zwartz (bass) and Allan Browne (drums). In January, they recorded an album in Melbourne that will be officially launched at Wangaratta Jazz. This Is Always is essentially a collection of standards, mostly ballads, plus a few originals.
Although he and Barney both have lengthy musical relationships with both Allan and Jonathan, this marks the first time the bassist and drummer have been in a band together and the deep, old-school chemistry that happens between them makes you wonder how it hasn’t happened before.
Julien says “I first played with Barney at Wangaratta in 1994. We played ‘My One & Only Love’ as a duet and I remember thinking ‘That’s how to play ballads!’ I’ve always loved the sound of the tenor sax with piano trio, but there are so many fine examples of it that I’ve avoided it til now. With the combination of Barney, Al and JZ, I feel like I can just relax and play and not have to try to make it anything except what it is naturally.
“We’ve all created musical identities and careers based on our individualistic approaches but this music is a common thread and love that we share. The recording session was really relaxed. There was no rehearsal. We all set up in the same room with no headphones, like an old-school session. Barney and I picked a handful of standards each and I brought a couple of new compositions of mine that I felt would suit the vibe. From the first tune, it sounded like the real deal!”
“Ravishingly beautiful music…enchanting lyricism…the epitome of understatement…. the music seemed to be playing itself, pouring out of the players’ instruments like glittering lava and sending arrows of aching lyricism straight to the heart.” – ‘The Age’