When the Horizons Quartet appeared at Flemington DIY on February 29, 2020, it was billed as “the newest collaboration between young artists — pianist James Collins and saxophonist Dan Wilkins — with veteran bassist Gene Perla and drummer Byron Landham.” The quartet appeared 13 days later at the Delaware Water Gap’s Deer Head Inn. Then, the pandemic shut down live jazz, but the Horizons Quartet is breaking out of the post-Covid atmosphere with new live performances and a new album. (Photo above, from left: Perla, Collins, Wilkins, and Landham).
The group was co-founded by Wilkins and Collins, and Perla was well aware of Wilkins’ talents as he is the son of Skip Wilkins, an Associate Professor of Music at Lafayette College and regular at the Deer Head Inn. The 81-year-old Perla has played with both father and son over the years and finds performing with Dan “gratifying because I never got from him this affliction that so many young players have of, ‘I want to be the fastest gun in town.’ He knows how to play the saxophone. He is thinking about melody, about his next phrase. He constructs his solos in a musical way. The kid has done his homework. He really knows what is going on with music.”
The Horizons Quartet album on Perla’s PM Records label is being released June 25 and will feature eight original tunes, all composed by Wilkins, who has been gigging around the Philadelphia area with Collins since 2015. The pianist studied under Landham at Temple University, and Perla, who has played with Elvin Jones, Nina Simone, and Sarah Vaughan, among others, has a unique connection to Wilkins. The first release by the PM Records label was saxophonist Dave Liebman’s Open Sky in 1973. Coincidentally, it was a 2007 performance by Liebman and pianist/saxophonist Marc Copland at the Deer Head Inn that, according to Wilkins, “opened my mind to the rich world of harmony and composition.”
A CD release launch will be held on June 27 at the Deer Head, followed by appearances at the Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA, on August 13, and the Delaware Water Gap’s COTA Jazz Festival on September 12. — SCHAEN FOX
PHOTO BY JONATHAN BROADY