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WVC: Do Not Go Gently

Ian Patterson By

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WVC has, over the course of five albums, earned a reputation as one of the finest jazz ensembles in Malaysia, since it was founded by pianist/composer Tay Cher Siang in 2006. Since Waiting For That Day (Self Produced, 2014), WVC has been busy; a twenty-three date, nineteen-city tour of China, Macua and Thailand was followed by further gigs in Malaysia, Singapore and Borneo. Not for nothing does the music on Do Not Go Gently exhibit the energy and spontaneous feel of a live performance.

Siang's compositions are inspired by the courage to fight, whether against a debilitating illness, industrial pollution, racism, corruption or dark politics, and the music is mainly melodious and upbeat. The mellifluous contours carved by Siang and soprano/alto saxophonist Julian Chan, combined with bassist AJ PopShuvIt and drummer KJ Wong's visceral rhythms, make for optimistic and cheerily defiant music. And although virtuosity is never and end in itself, the quartet displays plenty of improvisational flair within the framework of Siang's compositional narratives.

The title track, inspired by a Dylan Thomas poem, sets the template for much of the music. A pretty piano intro passes the melodic baton to Chan's soprano, and after a little duo flirting, Chan tears loose with a breezy Coltranesque solo, over Siang's flowing piano and Wong's animated yet nuanced stick work -cymbals to the fore as the music peaks. Piano and soprano revisit the head as the quartet quietly recedes.

With the bulk of the material seemingly written around Chan, and fruity melodies the blood in the music's veins, there's a tendency for the compositions—strong as they are—to sound a little alike. There are, however, notable exceptions. "The Storm Will Pass," starts with the delicate sound of thunder, before an ominous two-note piano/bass motif, robust alto and washing cymbals, underpinned by a string quartet's menacing waves, combine to forge escalating drama; it would make an atmospheric soundtrack to a James Bond film.

Riffing strings also color the memorable "This is The Best of Times," the melancholy music a sympathetic companion to a melange of grim news headlines about ISIS, government scandal and the sound of machine gun fire, and a spoken-word recital by Rizal Aziz inspired by the opening line of Charles Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities (1859). Darkness and light.

Another highlight is the convincing bossa nova of "The Rain Washed Away the Damn Haze," with guitarist Joel Voo an essential ingredient in this delightfully flowing number. A light-hearted pop sensibility infuses "The Colorless One," with Siang's harmonica-like pianica singing merrily on a tune that could have been penned by Billy Joel. Since its inception, WVC has drawn unreservedly from a wide musical palette.

There's some fine overlapping soloing from Siang and Chan on "Digital Green Knoll" and the saxophonist is also impressive on the pretty "Fading Old Town" and on his self-penned "Samsara" -a Sanskrit word defining the endless cycles of birth, life and death, actions and consequences. "The Search for Hope" closes a satisfying set on a stirring note, with Siang and Chan stretching out once more. The music bows out on a reed-filtered breath and a decaying piano note.

The beautifully packaged CD casing/booklet, with artwork, tour-map and a series of photogrpahs from WVC's road trips is an added bonus, but it's the music, instantly accessible yet warranting repeated listening, that is the real keeper.

Track Listing: Do Not Go Gently; The Storm Will Pass; The Rain Washed Away the Damn Haze; Rage Against the Dying of the Light; The Colorless One; Fading Old Town; Digital Green Knoll; This is the Best of Times; Purple Moon; Samsara; The Search for Hope.

Personnel: Tay Cher Siang: piano, pianica; Julian Chan: saxophones, voice; Aj Popshuvit: bass, double bass; KJ Wong: drums, percussion; Joel Voo: guitars; Rizal Aziz: vocal; Bernice Ooi: violin; Wong Lu Ee: violin; Tan Ka Ming: viola; Jonathon Oh: cello; Alex Tan: audio pyrotechnics, sound effects; string arrangements: Fung Chern Hwei (2, 9), Tay Cher Siang (6, 8).

Title: Do Not Go Gently | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Self Produced

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