While youth may be at his side, Wilkins plays and creates tonality as if he was an expert in the field. Not working entirely alone, Wilkins recruits Micah Thomas for pianos and Daryl Jones on the bass. Integral also to the percussion comes Kweku Sumbry and moments of guest featuring from Farafina Kan’s percussion ensemble. Finally, there is Elena Pinderhughes on the flute who is, while subtle, an engaging addition to the picture.
Together, they create The 7th Hand, this exemplary showcase of jazz prowess and formation. Wilkins especially is one of the most beautiful components to the record, using his alto-saxophone as if it was a pen to write with.
Formation in jazz is more vital when paired with emotion and each instrumentalist is a shining display on the opening track ”Emanation.” Drawing inspiration from biblical nature, The 7th Hand sculpts this draw to a higher power through sound and appears more as a direct relation to creation through cycles.
Seven tracks sprawl out in dramatic ranges but “Emanation” is a rampant blur of performance. The instrumentation is a striking and capturing orchestration that through the seven minutes, spins the audience on their head multiple times over. The spouts of the saxophone are key figures to the adoration that Wilkins spawns. Almost in this infectious notion, the percussion and saxophone become locked in this sprinting tango where mental footwork is the most important piece to follow. Both Sumbry and Wilkins are the stars of the track as backing bass and piano create somewhat grooves to slide in and out of.
Truly the fast-paced and cascading translations of “Emanation” set the audience up to be a whirlwind of noise. The second half of “Emanation” changes angles, becoming more of a display from the piano from Thomas and again, the percussion from Sumbry. This pair now become a waltz to follow the audience and offer some refuge for a disorientated on-looker.
With no lyrical content, Wilkins uses the alto-sax like it was his vocals. This grants the audience a persona with no real face to the identity, but pieces like “Shadow” are that human-based shape.
The smoke fills the room gives reprieve but also harnesses on just how intimate Wilkins can be through sound. “Shadow” quickly makes a platform for Jones on the bass and while the saxophone is still an immediate key portion of the track, Jones conquers here.
From the initial impact, the bass plays somber tones while the daylight seems to fade away. With this repetition that formats in the track, “Shadow” contains one of the best ensemble performances on The 7th Hand without ever becoming overpowering.
Encapsulated under five minutes, “Shadow” comes to a bitter close and breaks into the unknown midpoint as The 7th Hand becomes fit for a rambunctious demise. Power, creation, and tonality, Wilkins becomes a master of all and uses his chain of command to contort instrumentation as a tool for takeover.