Dave Wilson — Ephemeral

Jason Ferguson
2 min readDec 1, 2023

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Qobuz new release review (December 2023)

https://www.qobuz.com/us-en/album/ephemeral-dave-wilson/pnr16k0ui3aza

Although there is a somewhat spectral vibe to the latest release from New Zealand musician Dave Wilson, the title Ephemeralmay not be doing it justice, as that word can imply a sense of fleeting emptiness. Instead, what this album offers is a sound that is quite substantial, with dreamy, complex numbers illuminated by the confident playing of a large group: Wilson plays tenor sax and bass clarinet, while a core “jazz” group is rounded out by double bass player Chris Beernink, trumpeter Ben Hunt, guitarist Callum Jephson Allardice, and drummer Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa, all of which is further complemented by the inclusion of the powerful New Zealand String Quartet. The tone is set immediately with the woozy, Arkestra-evoking horns of “speak to me of yesterday and tomorrow (elusive as the dead),” a number that, over the course of its 12 minutes, unfolds in a dreamy, incorporeal manner that allows all of the members of this expanded ensemble to make a mark with improvisational prowess and textural complexity. Similarly, the 14-minute “Liv’s Theme” revives the skronking interplay of the brass meshing with haunting collaborative moments between guitarist Allardice and the four string players; it’s both delicately spare and intensely dynamic. Not all of the numbers are quite so … ephemeral. In fact, the group swings hard and directly on cuts like “High Maintenance” and the bouncy, Eastern European-inspired drive of “Keep it to Yourself,” and the record is remarkably percussive and rhythm-forward for an album with a horn player as a leader. Yet, it’s on the more inchoate numbers that this album truly shines, and on a track like “For Olivia” — insistently droney with Middle Eastern tonality and Wilson’s bass clarinet sounding like a foghorn cutting through the night — where all the brave elements of this group’s sounds can come together, it proves itself to be as daring as it is dreamy.

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Jason Ferguson

I endorse listening to 45s, Florida summers, Bollywood, soccer, and people who are smarter than I am. I write and edit things.