Longhand Trio's latest album is marked by quiet resolve
When it comes to wringing beauty out of agony, few local artists can equal guitarist Tony Wilson’s awesome and inspirational gift. The former crack addict and street musician has recently published his first novel, A Day’s Life, a dark journey though the horror that is Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. It’s a painfully fascinating read, and Longhand is more or less its soundtrack, ranging as it does from a jittery tweaker’s version of John Coltrane’s “Mars” to the moody, bluesy meditation that shares its title with the aforementioned book. Further sorrow enters the mix with “Tempest”, presumably inspired by Wilson’s Hornby Island neighbour and fellow musician Tempest Gale, whose 2009 murder is still unsolved.
You’d expect the record to be a downbeat affair, and it certainly contains its share of sombre moments. Yet even these are buoyed up by the quiet resolve evident in Wilson’s playing. Although he’s certainly capable of being noisy and exuberant—see “Mars” and drummer Skye Brooks’s tune “Hardpan”—more often he takes a storyteller’s approach, spinning out long, lyrical anecdotes that leave the listener hanging on every note.
As on pianist Tyson Naylor’s recently released Kosmonauten, also reviewed this week, Brooks and bassist Russell Scholberg provide sensitive and appropriate support. Here, they underscore Wilson’s moods with sturdy bass lines and expressive cymbals, helping to make Longhand the kind of sad but emotionally engaging undertaking that, perversely, will brighten any rainy day.
Tony Wilson’s A Day’s Life Band—an expanded version of the Longhand Trio—plays Ironworks at 11:30 p.m. on Friday (June 29), as part of the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival.