Rob Wagner Trio w/ Hamid Drake and Nobu Ozaki (Valid, 2007)
Saxophonist Rob Wagener's Trio with drummer Hamid Drake and bass player Nobu Ozaki is a very good album of free-bop jazz, exploring rhythm, space and texture with poise and freedom. Wagner is one of a long line of great New Orleans musicians and he learned his craft sitting in with local ensembles like Galactic. With funk does have its place here, the music is much closer in spirit to open minded Chicagoans like Fred Anderson and Ken Vandermark. There is a strong protest element to this record as well, which leads off with "Desoparia (They handed out 12 billion cash in Iraq)" that Wagner gives a vaguely middle eastern feel on saxophone, while Drake is a dynamo of rhythm, constantly shifting like the desert sand itself. "Shock, Awe, Sham, Shame" leads with a fusillade of drum attack before Wagner and Ozaki lead the ground assault with a storming free passage. "Freedumb (Aren't you glad to vote in America?)" takes an even more ironic path opening slowly with saxophone and bowed bass mourning lost innocence and continuing through a sorrowful improvisation. It's not all heavy duty political commentary however, the open-ended "Childhood Memory" and "A Search For Home" give the band a chance to spread out and explore music that has a wide horizon and few boundaries. Hamid Drake is the lynch-pin here. As he's done countless times with musicians like David Murray and the aforementioned Anderson and Vandermark, he creates a landscape that is rife with improvisational possibilities and the band uses these as a jumping off point to create some wonderful music.
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