Nicholas/Viklický/Dvorský/Wickins – One Two Three Four
(BeBoss Records. CD review by Mike Collins)
One Two Three Four is a live set in more than one sense. Of course, it’s a recording of a live performance, but it’s also vividly, exuberantly alive, making it a fitting tribute and commemoration of drummer and educator Dave Wickins, who died in July 2019.
The set in question is a performance from 2012, and Wickins is in the company of two of his long-standing sparring partners, Julian Nicholas on tenor, and pianist Emil Viklický. Viklický, a pillar of the Czech jazz scene had forged an enduring relationship with Wickens and Nicholas dating back to the 1990s and there’s an easy familiarity to this gig, as they play on a selection of classics and individual favourites. Petr Dvorský on bass completes the quartet.
Playful exchanges between Nicholas and Viklický kick things off, bluesy flourishes from the piano scampering after squawks from the tenor, setting the scene for In Deep, a loping Bill Frisell, country flavoured bluesy theme, delivered deadpan by the band with such zest that it’s hard not to imagine the audience grinning from ear to ear. Hallowe’en, a Viklický original, is driving swing with a riffing, contemporary theme; Wayne Shorter’s Iris has an intro exquisitely coloured by Wickins’ brushes and sizzling cymbals, before an urgent pulse crystallises and drives the band on; Poinciana is a joyful romp, gaining a funky edge and irresistible momentum from the Wickins kit and Viklický’s assertive piano. On Stella by Starlight, Viklický is channeling Herbie, even quoting his solo from the legendary Miles 1964 concert, before unleashing volleys of clusters and percussive patterns. Julian Nicholas’ supple, expressive phrasing and tone are on rich display in a reading of Tom Waits’ Johnsburg, Illinois. It’s a great moment in the set with the Wickins brushes working their magic behind a fluid bass solo and sighing, elegiac outro from Nicholas. Wickins is at it again with a swishing, clattering, melodic drum intro to the last tune Samba da Uma Nota.
This recording conjures a picture of old friends meeting with a bunch of favourite tunes in mind and reveling in the joy of making music together, shared with an audience at the time, and now with us. There are many documents of Dave Wickens’ playing and this stands alongside them, but adds something by reminding us of his gift for friendship and long-lived musical partnerships. And it’s a great set.