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Wonderful write-up for Eric Wyatt “Borough of Kings”…

Let me just say it upfront:  Eric Wyatt’s Borough of Kings on Posi-Tone Records is an instant post-bop classic, destined to be one of the jazz world’s more important works of our time.  If you listen to it without knowing anything about it, you might guess that it dates back to the 1960s.  Modal. Groovy.  Ecstatic. Swing. Funk. This brilliant work is authentic with every note, statement, inflection. Joining him on the core of the record are Benito Gonzales on piano, Ameen Saleem on bass and drummer Shinnousake Takahashi.  Eric plays all saxophones and flute.  They’re a powerful force, both live and recorded. Guests on the record include Clifton Anderson on trombone, trumpeter Duane Eubanks and Kyle Poole plays drums on one cut.

I’ve written about Eric before, three years ago.  I had just discovered him at Lenox Lounge with his fierce, driving ensemble.  He played the Lenox regularly up until it closed.  Looking back, I’m grateful that I got to witness those performances.  He held it down, preserving history right up to the last moments of the iconic club’s existence.

I asked Eric about how Borough of Kings came to fruition: It was something that I’m happy to have recorded it because I had been working on that set of music with those musicians for at least a year, and it was good to finally document that musical connection that we were building.  Benito and Shin were at the core of the group.  I was developing a sound and it got so strong that I had to document it.  We had been working on that at the Lenox Lounge.  We prepared for that there, so when we went into the studio, it was easy maintaining our musical edge for those compositions. 

One of my personal favorites on this project is Ancient Chinese Secrets.  It’s got a contagious riff that sticks in my spirit all day long, and the soulful ride is layered, deep and enigmatic. Eric told me that he wrote the tune while in residence in Shanghai.  He was staying in a small room with no amenities.  When not playing at night, all there was to do was practice, and write.  He knew he had created something special.  I made something that will outlive me, and it came out of that little room with no television, no connection to the world.  

Every detail on this record is absolute perfection.  Eric wrote six out of the eight tracks himself.  These tunes alone speak to the depth and range of his writing and playing abilities.  Benito Gonzalez wrote one fantastic piece, and the band gives much justice to John Coltrane’s Countdown.


I found it notable when Eric told me that Arthur Rhames was the cat who primarily taught him about jazz.  You knew he could teach you how to play.  He was one of a kind – could have been the next John Coltrane.  He was more advanced than the strongest musicians at that time.  I knew him for 8 or 9 years.  We met in 1981-82.  I actually lived in his house for a time.  I have taped recordings of him playing that would blow your mind. On whatever instrument he played, and he played many, he sounded like the best at the time.  I learned more from Arthur than anyone – practical application, like how to play over the song, when to apply certain techniques.

Eric Wyatt is creating a strong legacy of music, and Borough of  Kings will live on as a timeless piece of work.  He’s currently working with a musical collective, creating what he calls more adventurous jazz.  I can’t wait to see hear what he’s cooking up next.


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Burning Ambulance goes to Brooklyn with Eric Wyatt “Borough of Kings”…

Eric Wyatt - Borough Of Kings cover




When you read the phrase “Brooklyn jazz” in 2014, you probably don’t think of a guy likeEric Wyatt. You probably think of young men in untucked plaid shirts with glasses and beards, and young women who look like substitute teachers, playing winding melody lines that take a minute and a half to resolve, or clattering and honking in improvised spasms, or crossing old-country folk with grindcore and arranging it for soprano saxophone, laptop and trap drums… Not Wyatt. He looks like a cross between Forest Whitaker and the Simpsonscharacter Bleeding Gums Murphy, and his music is swinging, bluesy hard bop, straight out of the 1960s. Still, he’s about as “Brooklyn jazz” as you can get—a lifelong resident of the borough, with bone-deep ties to the straightahead jazz world (he’s Sonny Rollins‘ godson). Wyatt made his debut as a leader in 1997—his Posi-Tone debut, Borough of Kings, is his third studio release, and fifth album overall—and has appeared on several discs by trombonistClifton Anderson and Rodney Kendrick.

On the majority of Borough of Kings (buy it from Amazon), Wyatt is joined by pianist Benito Gonzalez, bassist Ameen Saleem, and drummer Shinnosuke Takahashi. A few guests appear as well—Kyle Poole takes over the kit on the surprising “Can He Come Out,” which also features Duane Eubanks on trumpet, and Wyatt playing an electric saxophone; and Anderson plays trombone on the album-closing “What Would I Do Without You.”

The album kicks off with “The Peoples Champ,” a midtempo number on which the lyricism of Gonzalez’ piano conjures a Latin McCoy Tyner, Takahashi’s drumming has a heavyweight’s swing and force, and Wyatt’s saxophone playing is in the mode of Joe Henderson—but the Joe Henderson of 1964, not 1994. This is a fanfare, a wake-up call. The follow-up, “One for Hakim,” keeps the energy level high; it’s built on another rock ‘em sock ‘em groove from Takahashi, and Wyatt heads into a zone not far from where his godfather was hanging out in the East Broadway Run Down era. The title track is up next, and it’s surprising—it begins in the slow, incantatory of John Coltrane circa Crescent, but at the 90-second mark, it launches into double time, and becomes something very close to “Countdown,” from 1959’s Giant Steps. Which is weird, considering that there’s a version of “Countdown” four tracks later…

“Can He Come Out,” the fourth piece on the album, makes for a sharp left turn. Wyatt’s electric saxophone sounds like it’s being fed through a wah-wah pedal (it starts to recall the theme from Sanford & Son after a while), and drummer Poole offers sharp, funky breakbeats in place of the swinging jazz grooves that dominate the album. Guest trumpeter Eubanks plays loose, strutting lines atop the rhythm, as Gonzalez and Saleem keep the middle ground rock-steady. When the two horns begin to trade phrases, then harmonize, the whole thing comes together as a perfect modernization of Wyatt’s traditionalist aesthetic, with just enough weirdness (via electro-sax) to make it a compelling interlude that feels too short when it ends.

“Ancient Chinese Secret” kicks off the album’s second half with some flute that doesn’t reappear until its final 30 seconds. The bulk of the piece stomps in a manner somewhere between Branford Marsalis‘s current group and the David S. Ware Quartet at their most melodic (think 2000’s Surrendered). On “Quest,” Wyatt picks up the soprano sax, and it lasts 10 minutes or a thousand years, depending on your perceptions. Then comes the aforementioned version of “Countdown,” which is nearly three times as long as the original, and not nearly as frantic or showy. Wyatt takes the melody of the piece, which originally showed up only at the end, after two minutes of frantic soloing—first from drummer Art Taylor, then Coltrane—and decides to play it as a traditional composition, rather than a vehicle for demonstrating his speed. And since it’s a pretty nice melody, this turns out to be a really good idea.

The album concludes with “What Would I Do Without You,” the title of which suggests that it should be a ballad. It’s not, really. It’s uptempo, but it’s got a rotund mellowness (mostly due to Clifton Anderson‘s presence on trombone) that makes it an ideal closer. Anderson is a slick player, rarely smearing his notes to excess, and he makes a great foil for Wyatt; their solos, and particularly their interactions in the piece’s final minute, sound like two lifelong friends telling stories they both know already, but which still make each other laugh.

Eric Wyatt is a terrific, powerful saxophonist who deserves much more attention than he’s gotten to date. For people to start thinking of him when they hear the phrase “Brooklyn jazz” wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.


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Wondering Sound picks Eric Wyatt “Borough of Kings”…





Eric Wyatt - Borough Of Kings cover








Eric Wyatt, Borough of Kings: Strong set of tunes from saxophonist Wyatt, who recalls some of Coltrane’s earlier period work, though balances things out with some straight-ahead post-bop work on this recording, too. The sextet features a nice line-up that includes pianist Benito Gonzalez, trumpeter Duane Eubanks, trombonist Clifton Anderson, bassist Ameen Saleem, and drummer Shinnosuke Takahashi. Nifty take on Coltrane’s “Countdown,” though it’s really some of the Wyatt originals that speak to the Coltrane sound. There’s one oddball contemporary track that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest, but that criticism is more one of cohesion. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the track itself, and it certainly doesn’t detract from this strong effort.


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Music and More reviews Eric Wyatt “Borough of Kings”…

Eric Wyatt – Borough of Kings (Posi-Tone, 2014)

Eric Wyatt is a fine mainstream tenor saxophone player who makes exciting and well thought out music on his most recent album Borough of Kings. On this album he is accompanied by Duane Eubanks on trumpet, Clifton Anderson on trombone, Benito Gonzalez on piano, Ameen Saleem on bass and Shinnosuke Takahashi on drums. The group works well together as a whole, but I was particularly impressed with Gonzalez who drives some of these pieces like the opener “The People’s Champ” with a power that is reminiscent of McCoy Tyner’s epic early ‘70’s music, in addition to adding some Latin flourishes at times. Adding some flute to “Ancient Chinese Secrets” gives the music some interesting texture with the lighter instrument playing along with the lead tenor saxophone before dropping aside like a booster rocket as Wyatt develops a firm and deft solo statement. I enjoyed the music most when they were playing at high speed as on the title song “Borough of Kings” which begins slowly before Gonzalez puts the hammer down and launches the group into a high speed chase and a nice version of the John Coltrane classic “Countdown” in which all of the musicians are combined in one mission of pushing the music forward while also enjoying moments of fine soloing.


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Dan Bilawsky reviews Eric Wyatt “Borough of Kings” for

Eric Wyatt - Borough Of Kings cover


The borough of Kings (County)—a.k.a. Brooklyn, NY—has been saxophonist Eric Wyatt’s home base from birth. It was there that he was exposed to jazz, met some of the legends of the music, and began to forge his own voice on saxophone. Here, on his fifth album to date, he delivers an intense brew that speaks volumes about what he’s learned during his time in Brooklyn.

Wyatt is a no holds barred player with an edge to his work. Thankfully, he found some simpatico quartet mates that are willing and able to match his energy level on this outing. Pianist Benito Gonzalez delivers strong-hammered support, intriguing right hand lines tempered by a firm left hand, and spiky suggestions, playing the post-modern McCoy Tyner role to Wyatt’s John Coltrane. Drummer Shinnosuke Takahashipummels his drums and pushes the band on most occasions, but he’s able to adjust to climates that call for a little more restraint without much of a problem. BassistAmeen Saleem, the final piece of the puzzle, serves as the connective tissue of the band. He bounds along beneath it all, playing around and playing off of Gonzalez and Takahashi. There are a few places where he almost gets muscled out of the aural picture by his heavy-hitting band mates, but it’s usually not an issue.

Six of the eight tracks on Borough Of Kings are Wyatt originals, with Gonzalez’s “Quest” and a slamming-turned-settled take on Coltrane’s “Countdown” filling out the program. Wyatt’s writing, no surprise, can occasionally fall into the “Coltrane-ish” category—note the dark-lined, bluesy “One For Hakim” and the spiritual introduction to the up-tempo title track—but he has other tricks up his sleeve. “The Peoples Champ” is a focused and fiery number that balances darkness and light; “Can He Come Out,” which features trumpeterDuane Eubanks and has Kyle Poole taking over the drum chair, is pure funky fun; and everybody has a ball on the straightforward-and-swinging “What Would I Do Without You,” which brings trombonist Clifton Anderson into the picture.

The aforementioned guests help to add another dimension to the music, but this remains Wyatt’s show. His stentorian saxophone navigates the ship through some exciting twists and turns, making Borough Of Kings a high-energy thrill ride from start to finish.



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SomethingElse Reviews the new Eric Wyatt CD…

Eric Wyatt - Borough Of Kings cover



A lot of musicians like to boast they live in Brooklyn; Eric Wyatt was born and raised there and as the son of a sax player, Wyatt grew up knowing his Dad’s friends, such of Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Gary Bartz and Sonny Rollins, who is Wyatt’s godfather. Wyatt started out as a trumpet player but switched to saxophone after his father passed, playing a gold-plated tenor Rollins had given Charles Wyatt, and Rollins got the younger Wyatt’s career off the ground.

Borough of Kings (due out July 22, 2014 from Posi-Tone Records) is Wyatt’s fifth LP since his 1997 God Son debut, and it reflects the work of a jazz cat who’s spent a lifetime absorbing the music’s rich history firsthand. No, Wyatt isn’t a Rollins clone, he sounds more akin to Kenny Garrett and early John Coltrane to my ears, straddling generations of styles.

His backing band for these sessions was Ameen Saleem (bass), Shinnosuke Takahashi (drums) and Garrett’s pianist, Benito Gonzalez. A lineup of eight tunes of which six are Wyatt’s, the composing style he reveals on Kings reflects that penchant for using tradition as a foundation for modernity, too. Take the song “The Peoples Champ,” for instance. It glides effortlessly between minor and major key. But what makes it stand out further is how it’s performed: Wyatt’s tenor rains down its own sheets of sound in drawn out notes, while Gonzalez’ piano pops. Takahashi is downright explosive on drums during minor part, breezily waltzing during major part.

Takahashi veritably explodes on a lot of songs, making other Wyatt originals such as “One For Hakim” and “Ancient Chinese Secrets” also crackle with energy. On the former, Saleem holds down the swing so securely that the drummer is free to stretch out. Nonetheless, it’s primarily Wyatt’s show and he puts on a nice one for the titular track. Beginning with a descending figure on the rubato opening, the song suddenly lurches into a rapid tempo where Wyatt stretches his notes to state the theme and then grooves with the rhythm, relying on reedy tone as much as note choice. Later on, Gonzalez solos and then trades fours with Wyatt.

Wyatt’s nimbleness in sharing the front line with other horn players is highlighted on “Can He Come Out,” which is acoustic funk, except for Wyatt’s electrified sax. Here, he trades licks with trumpet player Duane Eubanks. On “What Would I Do Without You,” Wyatt is blending in well with trombone player Clifton Anderson.

Gonzalez’s one contributed song might be the most soulful of the batch, and one that has a nice groove to it; “Quest” features Wyatt on soprano sax, and he adapts his style to the straight horn without any hitches. The only other track not penned by Wyatt was penned by the great John Coltrane. At first, you’re not aware that the funky number that Wyatt riffs over is “Countdown” until the band goes into swing mode about a minute in and the saxophonist plays those trademark lines. But in typical Wyatt fashion he doesn’t rush things, playing it smooth and in the pocket instead. Ultimately, it’s more satisfying that way.

Eric Wyatt makes good on his enviable upbringing by evoking the masters he’s met as a child while finding his own voice to do it. Borough of Kings is pure, Brooklyn-bred jazz at its finest.



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A new interview with Eric Wyatt…


Saxophonist Eric Wyatt pays homage to his hometown Brooklyn in his new album Borough of Kings

Eric Wyatt CD cover frontSaxophonist Eric Wyatt’s new album is out, Borough of Kings and I had a chance to catch up with him the last time I was in New York to talk about some of his inspirations for the music. Check out my on-camera interview with Eric below to also hear how he met Miles Davis when he was a kid along with some footage from his gig at Smalls Jazz Club.

For more information on Eric’s new CD, check out ww

Saxophonist Eric Wyatt’s new album is out, Borough of Kings and I had a chance to catch up with him the last time I was in New York to talk about some of his inspirations for the music. Check out my on-camera interview with Eric below to also hear how he met Miles Davis when he was a kid along with some footage from his gig at Smalls Jazz Club.

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A nice review for Eric Wyatt new CD “Borough of Kings”…

Eric Wyatt Borough of Kings Posi-Tone 2014

Eric Wyatt is the spirit of Brooklyn – tough, straight ahead and he can swing!
Brent Black /
You have as many tenor players running around New York as you have taxi cabs, Eric Wyatt simply happens to be one of the finest. Four releases as a leader under his belt and having a resume that includes Jeff “Tain” Watts, Kenny Garrett, and Jeremy Pelt there is little doubt that Wyatt can deliver the goods and his debut on Posi-Tone is proof positive. The aptly title Borough of Kings is a hard charging swing fest that features stellar originals from Eric Wyatt and band that would seem to feed off his lyrical sense of direction.


Some special appearance are made by Clifton Anderson, Duane Eubanks, and Kyle Poole. The lone cover would be the iconic John Coltrane tune “Countdown” which Wyatt takes temporary custody of in a inspired performance. The release immediately pops with the syncopated minor key composition “The Peoples Champ” which would seem to capture the smoldering pulse of the Brooklyn swing that is almost a genre unto itself. The title track “Borough of Kings” opens as an angst filled ballad but quickly morphs into a smoker that seemingly has no limits. Benito Gonzalez simply kills it as does Wyatt. The Gonzalez tune “Quest” works incredibly well within the confines of the release and the musical co-conspirators assembled. The closer “What Would I Do Without You” is a beautiful mid-tempo swing that simply caps off a rock solid release. The rhythm section of Ameen Saleem on bass and Shinnosuke Takahashi lay down a righteous groove and the addition of drummer Kyle Poole on the Wyatt original “Can He Come Out” takes in the pocket to that special place.
Eric Wyatt is not a rising star or a newbie. Wyatt is a seasoned pro with chops, talent and tenacity that exudes with his lyrically intense attack and melodic manipulation of emotions. Finding anything critical here is like looking for a needle in the proverbial harmonic haystack.
Having long said that Posi-Tone may well have the best stable of tenor players, Eric Wyatt simply confirms the accuracy of my statement.