Friday, August 17, 2007
Rob Wagner Trio (Valid Records, 2007) ****
I'm sorry to sound over-enthusiastic again for a new record, but this one by the - at least to me - unknown sax player Rob Wagner is really worth listening to, all the more so because Hamid Drake plays the drums on it. De bass is in the hands of Nobu Ozaki. Wagner and Ozaki are both from New Orleans, where the CD was recorded, with the devastation caused by hurricane Katrina still all too present, and some of the tracks refer to it, or rather to the lousy administration and the lack of political will to tackle the problems adequately. But now the music : only to hear Hamid Drake playing this CD is already worth purchasing : varied, accurate, flashing, perfectly supporting, creative, sensitive, ... a real master in body and soul. Ozaki is a drummer by education but he switched to bass in order to make a living in New Orleans, and his bass-playing is excellent, melodic and rhythmic as you might expect, but also with emotions and insight which puts him definitely above average. But the real star of this album is Wagner himself. Already from the first notes of "Desoparia", Wagner's soprano demonstrates what you will hear for the rest of the album : middle-eastern or klezmer inflections in his phrasing, a warm tone, variation, and a very tight and intense trio. The music swings, has vision, sensitivity, structure and his solos have focus. Drake switches his drums for frame drums on some tracks, offering a more intimate world jazz feel, especially because Wagner plays around the rhythms with hypnotic melodies. After a few more subdued pieces, some uptempo tracks, led by a fierce tenor, change the tone a little, creating real power and intensity, but all very coherent and with a great sense of direction. "Childhood Memory" is a children's tune which is updated, and serves as the basis for a long improvization. Rob Wagner is truly excellent and this album is highly recommended.
Listen to :
Shock, Awe, Sham, Shame
Freedumb (Aren't You Glad You Can Vote In America)