imageIn an earlier era, Jonathan Wilson would have graced the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Long, lanky with brown, shoulder-length hair and conveying Southern California ease, Wilson is a talented singer-composer and multi-instrumentalist who has played on and produced albums by Dawes, Father John Misty (aka Josh Tillman) and Conor Oberst, among others. A linchpin of the revitalized Laurel Canyon scene, Wilson, along with the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson, hosted salons and jam sessions that included members of the Jayhawks and Wilco as well as Elvis Costello, David Crosby and Graham Nash, Jenny Lewis and Benmont Tench of the Heartbreakers. In 2013, Wilson released “Fanfare,” which featured contributions by Jackson Browne, Crosby and Nash, Jenny O, Tench, Tillman and others.

Though it retained the mellow folk-rock vibe and hints of psychedelica of his earlier releases, “Fanfare” was a bit of departure for Wilson, who build many of the arrangements around piano, rather than guitar. The opening track, not coincidentally titled “Fanfare,” was an orchestral piece in which the rushing strings and kettle drums gave way to Wilson’s voice and grand piano before the violins pushed to the foreground and James King of Fitz and the Tantrums entered with a brief free-jazz sax solo.

Wilson rarely took a linear route through his arrangements; most songs bumped up against or exceeded the six-minute mark and he found the longer space an advantage. After a brief bass interval by Dan Horne, the spry “Love to Love” sprung into catchy folk rock featuring Wilson’s 12-string guitar and piano; a savvy producer, Wilson had Horne to repeat his part as the song raced to its fade. “Dear Friend” was gentle, Beatlesque ballad in waltz time that veered unexpectedly into a darker place and then back again, with Wilson playing a wet, wah-wah guitar solo as drummer Richard Gowen roamed. In “Cecil Taylor,” in which Wilson played delicious electric guitar and bass parts, Crosby scat-sang a solo and Nate Walcott issued an outro on flugelhorn. Wilson loved adding those unexpected colors: King returned for a flute solo on “New Mexico,” which featured lyrics by British folk icon Roy Harper, and layered his saxophone to open “Fazon,” Wilson’s cover of a Sopwith Camel tune from the late ‘60s.

Several tasty tracks of varying moods featured Wilson’s voice and acoustic guitar as their centerpiece. On “Moses Pain,” the Heartbreakers’s Tench and Mike Campbell added piano and slide guitar, respectively, and Browne, Crosby and Nash, Tillman and Jenny O sang in the background. On “Her Hair Is Growing Long,” Wilson played all the instruments – not just acoustic guitar, but also drums, percussion, bass, Hammond organ and synths – and provided all the voices. He did the same on the snarling ‘Illumination” and the spacey “Future Vision,” save for, in the latter, cello by Gabriel Noel and Tillman’s harmony vocal; also on “Future Vision,” Wilson added deft guitar solos as well as the piano and percussion for a jaunty interlude – another form of misdirection that satisfied. Browne and Tillman contributed vocals to the driving folk tune “Desert Trip.”

Wilson was well-established, especially among musicians, prior to the release of “Fanfare.” With his band, he had toured separately with Wilco and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and collaborated with Erykah Badu on one of her projects and with some members of the Grateful Dead on a tribute to Jerry Garcia. He released a five-song EP, “Slide By,” in late ’14. With “Fanfare,” Jonathan Wilson confirmed his many talents and revealed they would have been notable not only in the bygone late ‘60s and early ‘70s, but in any era of rock and pop.