Immanuel Wilkins channels ‘higher power’ with highly anticipated The 7th Hand

Following up his breakthrough debut Omega, alto saxophonist and composer Immanuel Wilkins looks to keep his momentum going with his much-anticipated release The 7th Hand.

This is Wilkins’ second album with Blue Note Records. His quartet features pianist Micah Thomas, bassist Daryl Johns and drummer Kweku Sumbry, with special guest appearances from flutist Elena Pinderhughes and the Farafina Kan Percussion Ensemble.

In his blossoming career, Immanuel Wilkins has worked with a wide variety of artists including Wynton Marsalis, Gretchen Parlato, Solange Knowles and fellow label-mate Joel Ross.

Jazz critic Nate Chinen named The 7th Hand one of his most anticipated releases of 2022, while Charles Waring wrote that Wilkins “already looks set to join the small pantheon of great alto saxophonists that includes Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, Eric Dolphy and Jackie McLean… The 7th Hand embodies contemporary jazz at its most thrilling.”

The 7th Hand explores “the relationships between presence and nothingness” throughout an hour-long, seven-movement suite. With his compositions, Wilkins and his bandmates channel these themes with a progressive intensity that culminates in collective free-flowing improvisation. “It’s the idea of being a conduit for the music as a higher power that actually influences what we’re playing,” the sax player says.

For Wilkins, spirituality is a strong influence on The 7th Hand, its title derived from a question immersed in Biblical symbolism. In the album’s conception, he wondered: If the number six represents the extent of human possibility, how can he connect to a seventh element of the divine to possess his quartet and express it through sound?

Wilkins’ choice of imagery on the album’s cover is just as intentional, critically challenging and reimagining past conventions. “I wanted to remix the Southern Black baptism, and also provide critique on what is considered sanctified and who can be baptized.”

The 7th Hand is a conceptually dense project, revealing layer by layer a clearer glimpse into the quartet’s collective truth as the album progresses. “Each movement chips away at the band until the last movement — just one written note,” says Wilkins. “The goal of what we’re all trying to get to is nothingness, where the music can flow freely through us.”

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Here’s the track listing:

  1. Emanation
  2. Don’t Break (feat. Farafina Kan Percussion Ensemble)
  3. Fugitive Ritual, Selah
  4. Shadow
  5. Witness (feat. Elena Pinderhughes)
  6. Lighthouse (feat. Elena Pinderhughes)
  7. Lift

Immanuel Wilkins’ The 7th Hand is out now via Blue Note.