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New Horizons in jazz at Miller Symphony Hall

The Horizons Quartet has a fresh and lively sound, not totally conventional, but firmly rooted in melody and tightly-structured songs.

The music ranges from haunting and wistful to lively and propulsive, taking unexpected turns and rhythm variations.

The quartet performed in a live-stream video, 7:30 p.m. May 14, “Jazz Upstairs” series, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.

The concert is available as video-on-demand May 15.

The quartet was to have performed at Miller Symphony Hall in May 2020, but the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shutdown forced the concert’s postponement.

Just as the members of the Horizons Quartet span generations, so does its music, which is exploratory but pays tribute to jazz history.

The quartet features 29-year-old Dan Wilkins, tenor and soprano saxophones; James Collins, piano; Gene Perla, upright bass, and Byron “Wookie” Landham, drums. The group has performed at Porter’s Pub, Lafayette Bar, both Easton, and the Deer Head Inn, Delaware Water Gap.

“We are pulling from history to a large extent, revisiting a lot of the Blue Note [the jazz record label] stuff, the golden era of jazz from the ‘60s and ‘70s, which includes Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter and Miles Davis,” says Wilkins

“I have experimented with different things, but the Great American Songbook is a huge part of what I do,” says Wilkins in a phone interview from his home in Macungie.

“Horizons is closer to the jazz tradition. I’m not part of any particular niche of jazz. I just want to do music that I love and can share with people,” Wilkins says.

Much of the concert is expected to feature songs from the group’s new self-titled CD, scheduled for release June 25 on PM Records.

The album, recorded at Turtle Studios, Philadelphia, has eight selections written by Wilkins and arranged by Wilkins and Collins.

The Symphony Hall concert will include cover versions of jazz pieces, such as Charlie Parker’s “Estrellita.”

Wilkins and Collins met in Philadelphia. “We were hanging out there and we hit it off, playing together and sharing ideas. We were searching for the right band,” Wilkins says.

Both are from families of musicians. Collins’ father is a trombonist. Wilkins is the son of pianist Skip Wilkins, an associate professor at Lafayette College where he teaches music theory, jazz history and jazz improvisation.

Dan Wilkins was 11 when he first performed music with his father was 11. They recorded the “Czech Wishes” album in Prague, Czech Republic, did a jazz camp in Greece and concerts in Germany.

In 2019, the Skip & Dan Wilkins Quartet recorded “Someday” on Deer Head Records. Father and son still perform together and are working on an album planned for release later this year.

Over his long career, Gene Perla has recorded with musicians that include Miles Davis, Nina Simone and Elvin Jones. Last November, his 3 Trios group did a “Jazz Upstairs” concert at Miller Symphony Hall, where Dan Wilkins did two songs in a guest appearance.

3 Trios, which had Perla playing with three different pianists and a drummer, released a new self-titled album of the Symphony Hall show. The CD displays excitement and technical virtuosity in the trio format.

Byron Landham has appeared on more than 50 CDs and performed with Betty Carter, George Coleman, Joey DeFrancesco, Pat Martino and David Sanborn.

The Horizon Quartet CD can be pre-ordered at PM Records, or purchased after its release at: www.pmrecords.com/HorizonsQuartet.shtml

The 3 Trios CD can be purchased at: www.pmrecords.com/3Trios.shtml

Ticket information: www.millersymphonyhall.org

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Horizons Quartet, 7:30 p.m. May 14, “Jazz Upstairs,” Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.