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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Max Nagl - Wumm Zack! Vol. 2 (Rude Noises, 2007) ***

Austrian saxophonist Max Nagl already brought us great joy this year with "Big Four Live", and now he's taking his music a step further in the region of great fun, with this traditional brass band and marching band music. Nagl does with European traditional dance music what Steven Bernstein did with Mexican and American traditional music : rearranged it, turn it into a jazzy version (but without the klezmer approach, of course), while keeping the fun and adding the unexpected ventures into more modern exploratory musical territory. The music was recorded by two line-ups, one in Belgium and one in Austria, with respectively Thomas Gansch on trumpet, Max Nagl on alto, Wilfried Brandstötter on tuba, Patrice Heral on percussion, and Max Nagl, Clemens Salesny on alto, Alex Meissl on electric bass and Herbert Pirker on drums, with ambient sounds thrown in here and there. Nagl's interpretation of the music, and his transformation is respectful and yet I don't think it will appeal to fans of traditional wedding band music, let alone be played at such events. He may squeeze in references to Ornette Coleman, Lol Coxhill and the musicians may screech and skronk in full free jazz blow-out sessions once in a while, but it always moves back into the jolly rhythms (and sudden rhythm changes) of waltzes and polkas, and all that with wonderful arrangements throughout. Yet the question is : what does it offer in the end? Sure, it's fun to hear live, and surely the audience does laugh with the musical jokes once in a while, it's fun to hear on CD, at least once or twice, but it does not have the depth or musical power to listen to it too often, just like Bernstein's music. Light and enjoyable as a side-dish.