Since his last album, 1998's Generations, alto saxophonist Steve Wilson's main gig has been with pianist Chick Corea's band, Origin. Passages, which features Wilson's Origin bandmate Adam Cruz on percussion, Bruce Barth on piano and Ed Howard on bass, is a generally well-put-together showcase for Wilson's playing and composing.
Wilson's compositions are well-crafted, with plenty of memorable if sometimes excessively pretty melodies. On the opening cut, "Turnin' the Corner" (RealAudio excerpt), Wilson soars, mixing in some unexpected stops and starts. The soft "Song for Anna" (RealAudio excerpt), reminiscent of an early '70s soul ballad, is a nice blend of Barth's Fender Rhodes piano and Wilson's flute.
Nicholas Payton, who guests on trumpet and flügelhorn, greatly enlivens the disc whenever he appears. Leaving his Louis Armstrong associations behind, he plays with customary fire and fresh angularity, particularly on the album's high point, "Q-B-Rab" (RealAudio excerpt).
In fact, Payton delivers the visceral punch that is otherwise missing from Passages. For all of Wilson's polish and pretty playing, it's hard to discern what's going on in his heart.