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Marc Wagnon: An Afterthought

Glenn Astarita By

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Many of us have been anticipating the reissue on CD of Swiss vibraphonist Marc Wagnon's late 80's LP titled, Shadowlines. Wagnon, a member of the much beloved New York prog-rock/modern jazz outfit 'Dr. Nerve', along with the powerhouse prog/fusion band Tunnels and a lengthy tenure with the infamous 'Brand X' has done the modern jazz community a favor by reissuing this gem. Here, Wagnon enlists the audacious talents of trumpeter, Dave Douglas, saxophonist Bob Malach, Dr. Nerve guitarist Nick Didkowsky, pianist Dave Kikoski along with other notables of the New York jazz scene.

An electric-acoustic blend of high octane performances coupled with Wagnon's thoroughly memorable compositions, Shadowlines is a multifaceted yet overtly stylized recording that skirts the fringes of fusion while ultimately - a jazz-based recording. The proceedings get off the ground with spark and vitality on the opening composition titled, 'Bazillus Samba', featuring the up-front and brassy performances of trumpeter nonpareil, Dave Douglas who rides atop drummer Jim Mussen's commanding funk induced rhythms... On this piece, Wagnon launches into a lengthy and quite climactic solo in straight four time, which subsequently develops into a rapid samba motif accented by melodically tinged yet brief razor sharp choruses from Douglas and trombonist Carl Reinlib. The piece titled, 'What Are Doing Those Little Atoms' (previously unreleased) features sharp, clear-toned picking by guitarist Mark Lambert, hard-edged funk rhythms, countering off-center phrasing by Dave Douglas and gobs of luminous tonal color provided by Wagnon who effectively balances the rhythms and recurring themes. 'M'Tume' commences with sharp, jolting unison lines between Wagnon and bassist Leo Traversa as this piece builds up steam amid alternating choruses and improvisation from the mini horn section of Douglas and Reinlib. Here, the listener is treated to a burgeoning yet ' gleefully in-your-face arrangement capped off by Lambert's pleasingly nasty electric guitar work. 'D-Tune' boasts a hybrid Latin-Rock beat and a captivating melody line along with a bevy of dynamics from the charged up ensemble as Wagnon displays his incredible chops and awe-inspiring technique while having some fun deconstructing and reassembling the melody. The composition titled, 'Galactic' features a delightful free-jazz solo by bass clarinetist Michael Lytle which effectively offsets the straight four backbeat followed by guitarist Nick Didkowsky's slicing and dicing and altogether penetrating electric guitar solo. 'Sunny But Wimpy' (Previously unreleased) features complex unison choruses and shifting themes all with a relaxed sense of urgency!

Your adrenaline will most certainly rise while listening to Shadowlines ! A tour-de-force, hard hitting yet sonorous affair that bridges the gap between similar yet historically detached genres. You get a little of everything here, but the winning formula resides within the strong compositions, near flawless execution, meaningful solos and overall sense of unity! This is craftsmanship of an exalted order. Highly recommended!


Title: An Afterthought | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Tzadik

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