The 7th Hand by Immanuel Wilkins – Album Review

The 7th Hand jazz album by Immanuel Wilkins is extensively reviewed here by Douglas Moore

When I was younger listening to music and learning about audio, I loved almost all music; blues, soulful guitar, and almost all forms of pop and rock within their different genres, from The Talking Heads to The Rollins Band and everything in between. I also enjoyed some old-school country with its acoustic nature. However, Jazz, for me started a bit differently.

Back when I used to work at the home audio shops in my hometown, I would use jazz and their generally good studio or live recording work as a way to show off the sound quality of the demonstration systems. I would use bands like Spyro Gyra, Weather Report, and The Rippingtons among others. As I matured and grew as an audiophile and a music lover/musician I started to pay attention to the actual music involved with jazz. I started where a lot of people begin when discovering jazz, listening to contemporary jazz and fusion.

I had not realized that there was a whole world of music that I had never been exposed to. Musicians like Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Chet Baker just to name a few. When I opened this pandora’s box of music history my world truly became a lot better. I realized what I was hearing was some of the best musicians in the world coming together and making music, music that by design is meant to be displayed in a way that allows improvisation and on-the-spot feeling.

With the making of his follow-up album to his Blue Note debut Omega, a New York Times best jazz album of 2020, Immanuel Wilkins  has released The 7th Hand.

Blue Note Records

Immanuel brought back Micah Thomas on piano, Daryl Johns on bass, and Kweku Sumbry on drums. There are special guest appearances by the Farafina Kan Percussion Ensemble and Flutist Elena Pinderhughes.

The Julliard trained Alto Saxophonist Immanuel was originally from Darby, Pennsylvania. After high school, he moved to New York City in 2015 to study music. There he met Trumpet player and composer Ambrose Akinmusire. Ambrose helped Immanuel get acquainted with the New York jazz scene. There he met Jason Moran, a prominent pianist, and composer. Jason took Immanuel on tour with him playing alto sax in Moran’s “In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall, 1959, which was a tribute set to Thelonious Monk.

The title “7th Hand” is based on biblical symbolism and is Immanuel’s way of questioning “If the number six represents the extent of human possibility, Wilkins wondered how it would sound to invoke divine intervention and allow that seventh element to possess his quartet” and “It’s the idea of being a conduit for the music as a higher power that influences what we’re playing,” he says.

The album starts with the track Emanation. This song kicks off the album and immediately shows the talents of these musicians and is a damn fine introduction indeed. Don’t Break continues and slows things down a bit showing off some of the range on this album. It features some really good drum work with multiple percussion instruments being played by the Farafina Kan Percussion Ensemble and has a really good flow to the song. In the song “Fugitive Ritual, Selah” shows off Daryl Johns’s ability on one of my favorite instruments, the stand-up bass. I have always loved this instrument for its tone and demand in the mix since I was young,

This song begins with a demonstration of why I love this instrument before settling down into a very modern jazz song. Shadow shows off Immanuel’s sax playing and gives Micah Thomas some room to show off his piano skills. I intensely enjoyed some of the piano runs of this song!

Lighthouse is a song that shows off why I fell in love with jazz in the first place. It is a faster-paced affair with much in the way of the improvisation and has a more dynamic feel to the song that is outrageously gratifying!  The drums are the star of the show on this song, Kweku turns it up to 11 with his playing. The track has everyone putting their best musician’s foot forward!

Lift brings forth the final and longest track on this album. The music signifies the improvisational nature of jazz at its finest. Lift has that jazz club “jam session” feel and in the full 26 minutes, it reveals many different feelings and emotions. From its Balladesque passion and intensity to its musical journey retrospectively, this song goes many places; it’s a sit back, close your eyes and see where it takes you affair.

Sound Quality Analysis:

This Being a Bluenote production, I knew I was in for a real treat as this album has all the bases covered.

Imaging and Soundstage – The 7th hand is an album that you can tell was handled well in the studio. The imaging is spot on concerning instrument placement and is very pinpoint in nature. Immanuel’s sax is right where he is and for that matter, every other musician is placed correctly. You can easily tell where each player is for every song. The soundstage is large when it should be and cozy and smaller when called for. I especially appreciate the drums and bass on this album as they are recorded well and have a good stage presence.

Bass, midrange, and treble are all accounted for being dynamic and detailed yet never shrill when called for. The overall balance of this album would be considered quite “neutral”. The bass drum has body and tightness to it — sounding much better than a lot of newer albums that overemphasize the thump of the bass drum taking away the wood-bodied sound of this instrument. The cymbals are detailed and dynamic but not overly so. Stand-up bass is full-bodied and natural while wind instruments sound smooth and tonally correct as they display a good sense of scale.

Finally, the all-important piano is reproduced with a full-bodied sound and is quite harmonically detailed down to the bass notes. Immanuel’s sax does everyone well on this recording. The sense of scale is good and the macro-details allow you to hear his breaths as he plays while the air dances through his instrument.

There are lots of good jazz albums out there. I for one have not heard all of them and have a habit at times of sticking to what I know. If you are a lover of jazz, especially the improvisational style of jazz that I particularly love, you owe it to yourself to give this album a listen. At least try it out on one of the streaming platforms. If you love this album as much as I do, the vinyl copy will be a great addition to anyone’s jazz record collection.

The album is available on digital and vinyl formats from the basic MP3 for $7.99, high-resolution WAV or FLAC for $14.38, CD for $9.58, and 2 LPs for $23.98. There is even a 2LP exclusive that comes with the test pressing for $79.20. It is also streaming on Qobuz in 24/96Khz.

Bluenote Records Bluenote.com.

WHERE the AUDIOPHILE BEAT MEETS THE MUSICAL ELITE! !

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