Omega, Immanuel Wilkins
After making a striking appearance on Joel Ross’ KingMaker, alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins delivers an expansive opus about the Black experience in America on his own debut album Omega, which was produced by Jason Moran and features a next-generation quartet with pianist Micah Thomas, bassist Daryl Johns, and drummer Kweku Sumbry.
With powerful pieces like “Mary Turner – An American Tradition” and “Ferguson – An American Tradition,” Wilkins wanted to convey the deep pain his people have endured in this country for centuries. That message lands harder in 2020, as the world struggles through a global pandemic, and cities across America are uprising due to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, three unarmed Black people who died at the hands of whites.
The pain is balanced with joy, too, as on the opening track “Warriors,” a bright tune that celebrates the love that’s closest to you. “It’s about friendships, family, your hood, and your community,” Wilkins says. “It’s about us serving as warriors for whatever we believe in.”
“Immanuel has always been leaning forward into the music,” says Moran. “He is a powerful player. He blends traditions in a way that only his generation knows how to do. His band is set to begin a new mode that I look forward to hearing develop. The future of the music rests with these musicians, and I trust their noses.”
Immanuel Wilkins, 22, grew up in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. After he graduated high school, Wilkins moved to New York City in 2015 to attend The Juilliard School. In the city, he met trumpeter and composer Ambrose Akinmusire, who mentored Wilkins and helped him navigate the jazz scene. He also met a musician who would change his professional life, Jason Moran, the prominent pianist and composer who took the young saxophonist on tour. In what was one of Wilkins’ biggest gigs to date, he played alto in Moran’s “In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall, 1959,” a series of live performances honoring the great legacy of jazz pianist Thelonious Monk. Wilkins has since worked with a diverse range of artists including Solange Knowles, Gretchen Parlato, Wynton Marsalis, Gerald Clayton, Aaron Parks, and Joel Ross, making a striking appearance on the vibraphonist’s 2019 Blue Note debut KingMaker.
Immanuel Wilkins, alto saxophone
Micah Thomas, piano
Daryl Johns, double bass
Kweku Sumbry, drums
Produced by Jason Moran