There’s a charming innocence to what veteran saxophonist Dave Wilson writes in his liner notes illuminating the story behind his decision to create Stretching Supreme, a fascinating, hard hitting and vibrantly performed tribute to his idol John Coltrane by his group, The Dave Wilson Quartet. He says he was a kid jamming on harmonica along with blues and classic rock albums and “I don’t know how it happened, but one of the first jazz records I ever bought was Coltrane’s Live at the Village Vanguard – a moment that hooked him and guided his incredibly diverse path and musical career. Doesn’t know how it happened sounds like some kind of spiritual leading, as if he and ‘Trane was just destined to “meet.”
However that actually played out in real life, it gives rise now to a triumphant live recording with a fiery trio led by pianist Kirk Reese that wasn’t originally intended to be one. Five of these tunes were recorded on a single evening at Chris’ Jazz Café in Philly in 2017. When Chris’ resident sound engineer presented the recordings to Wilson, he loved them – and it made sense, once the tracks were cleaned up at Red Rock Studio by engineer Kent Heckman, to release it as a sequel of sorts to the saxophonist’s equally triumphant 2019 live set One Night at Chris’.
The fact that Wilson decided to fill out Stretching Supreme with two powerhouse performances from that later (2018) performance (the hypnotic, lyrical and ultimately free-form original “On the Prairie,” the whimsical, playfully swinging “Days of Wine and Roses”) is a besides the point bonus. When he called the album Stretching Supreme, he wasn’t being metaphorical.
Buoyed largely by the tireless, otherworldly and intense soloing of Reese, he pours every ounce of sweat and passion into his horn throughout expansive arrangements that extend A Love Supreme’s “Acknowledgement” by six minutes, “Resolution” by two, the deeply spiritual soul-jazz ballad “Dear Lord” by six minutes and ‘Trane’s trademark “Naima” into a percussive, hypnotic whirlwind that exceeds the original by a whopping 11 minutes.
Wilson’s eclectic history includes a time leading Wilson’s Free Jazz Explorations, an experimental, avant-garde project that attempted to take jazz back to its more primitive, religious roots. That’s the sense of liberation and sacredness he brings to Stretching Supreme – which honors his hero with equal amounts of reverie and raw intensity.