When he left Philadelphia for Juilliard in 2015, saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins already showed remarkable promise but set relatively modest goals for his future.

“Hopefully I can tour around the world playing this music, and also teach a little bit,” he said at the time. “I love playing for people.”

The 24-year old altoist returns to the city Thursday having far exceeded those ambitions. His sold-out performance at PhilaMOCA, presented by Ars Nova Workshop, celebrates Wilkins’ second release for the iconic Blue Note Records. The album will be released Friday.

His debut, Omega, earned the top spot on the New York Times “Best Jazz Albums of 2020″ list and was hailed by JazzTimes magazine as “the most important debut jazz recording in years.”

Wilkins’ follow-up, The 7th Hand, reconvenes the gifted young quartet from its predecessor — pianist Micah Thomas, bassist Daryl Johns, and drummer Kweku Sumbry — while broadening its compositional scope with an album-length, seven-movement suite. The flow of the music is designed to build to a point where the band becomes a collective “vessel,” channeling music from some higher realm of consciousness.

“I was thinking a lot about being a vessel,” Wilkins explained last week from his home in Brooklyn. “About getting into a super zen space where it feels like you’re not the one making the music. I wanted to write a body of work that triggered that experience.”

The suite culminates in the frenzied free improvisation of “Lift,” which stretches to 26 minutes on the album but occasionally lasts far longer on stage. Wilkins will be on tour promoting the music in New York and Connecticut for several days this month and on the West Coast and Europe in February and March.

“We find it hard to stop sometimes,” Wilkins laughed. “It’s funny, because the end presents itself in different places for different people at different times. So Micah might feel like it’s the end, but Daryl keeps going, or Kweku might feel like it’s the end and I keep going. There’s always a kind of ebb and flow in that last movement between inspired moments, uninspired moments, moments of waiting or anticipation, and then finding the end together. It’s a continuous working out of ideas together.”

If Wilkins’ two releases thus far point the way toward the future of jazz, they’re on the perfect label to do so. Blue Note has been among the most heralded of jazz imprints throughout much of its 80-year history, releasing notable albums by the likes of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Lee Morgan, Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, and countless others.

“It’s my dream label,” Wilkins said. “It’s the dream label. I feel an immense amount of pressure to make sure that I’m only putting out stuff that I’m willing to stand by for years and years. I want to treat my music with seriousness knowing that it’s being inducted into this huge archive of amazing work. I can’t take that for granted.”

The album’s title is a Biblical reference; Wilkins cited the repeated occurrence of the number six, including a reference in Ezekiel to an altar measuring six “long cubits,” each one comprising a cubit and a hand’s breadth. “Six is this number that usually is tied to the extent of human possibility,” he said. “Seven is a symbol of divine intervention, so I thought of that idea of vesselhood as reaching the seventh hand.”

These heady ideas link Wilkins to a tradition of spiritual jazz that includes such legendary forebears as John and Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, while the saxophonist cites the example of such avant-jazz explorers as Frank Wright, Charles Gayle, Albert Ayler, and David S. Ware. Though all of these musicians are influences, Wilkins comes by his spiritual tendencies naturally, having grown up in Upper Darby playing piano at the Prayer Chapel Church of God.

“That was my first time really understanding the correlation between God and music and that idea of vesselhood,” Wilkins said. “I realized that I had a certain responsibility to be sensitive to how the service was moving. The Black church in general is really interesting because there’s a certain amount of improvisation to the liturgy — which may lend itself to abnormally long services. But the great thing about it is there’s a really organic movement between elements, and I felt that my playing and improvising could actually change the trajectory of the service depending on the emotional content I gave to the congregation.”

Wilkins is one of the long list of established and rising jazz stars to have studied at Philly’s Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts, a debt that he partially repaid recently with his lively appearance at a benefit for the institution hosted by Chris’ Jazz Café. Last September, he appeared at The Woodlands, a historic cemetery in West Philadelphia, as part of an adventurous trio with saxophonist Odean Pope, nearly six decades his senior, and drummer Chad Taylor. Wilkins and Pope will reunite in March with Danish drummer Kresten Osgood, while the younger saxophonist is also working on a commissioned large ensemble piece as part of Pope’s ongoing “Sounds of the Circle” project.

Thursday’s show will mark the first appearance in several years by Wilkins’ own quartet. “I’m so excited,” he said. “I owe so much to Philly and I give it up all the time. I feel proud and that it makes me feel good to see people who are proud of me and proud of what I’m doing. I’ll never be a New Yorker. I’m always a Philadelphian.”