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Immanuel Wilkins Preaches the Word

“My work is the intersection between spiritual practice and Black aesthetics,” Immanuel Wilkins says. “The two symbols I draw from are John Coltrane and the Black Church.”

At age 24, saxophonist and composer Wilkins has established himself as a uniquely thoughtful and empathetic voice in jazz. He weaves lyrical alto lines around the intricate instrumentation of his long-established quartet to produce music that traverses everything from skewed Thelonious Monk melodies to the raw power of Ornette Coleman’s breath. Signed to Blue Note at 22 with his 2020 debut album Omega, Wilkins has toured with the likes of Jason Moran, Aaron Parks and Wynton Marsalis as well as collaborating on interdisciplinary projects with choreographer Sidra Bell, photographer Rog Walker and artist David Dempewolf.

His latest LP, The 7th Hand, is his most ambitious work to date. Referencing free-jazz, Biblical vesselhood and performance art in its seven-track suite, the record culminates in a 26-minute composition where Wilkins’ quartet aims to become conduits for a free-flowing improvisation directed from a higher entity. It is a heavy concept worn lightly — the divine hand passing through their intuitive instrumental communication to produce the wails, moans and emotive charges of creativity itself.

Read the feature in Downbeat Magazine.

[This piece was published on 29/03/22]

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