136

Pax Wallace: Language Arts

Jason West By

Sign in to view read count
It's a pity Pax Wallace will soon be leaving Seattle to take up residence in Europe. Luckily, the thirty-nine year old pianist/composer leaves us with some wonderful music representing much of his best work over the seventeen years that he has made Seattle his home.

Recorded in the autumn of last year, "Language Arts" offers ten tracks that cover the entire spectrum of Wallace's musical palette. Featuring top-notch musical contributors like Boston's Bob Moses and NYC's Charles Pillow---along with our own Chuck Bergeron and Jim Knapp---this CD combines some great individual playing with a group effort anchored in beautiful, intelligent composition. That's Wallace's forte, and the result is some heady, heartfelt, spiritual music.

From the get go, listeners receive the visceral satisfaction of experiencing Charles Pillow's tenor. On the first cut, "Crazy Horse," the "tundra wolf"---as Wallace dubs Pillow in the liner notes---brings us to the precipice and back. His full tone and expert use of the altissimo register is a saxophone lover's dream. Surely, one feels comfortable with this Pillow; his horn settles right into a groove without falling through the highly complex harmonic cracks. The final cut, a live at Tula's version of "Crazy Horse," makes a wonderful study of Pillow's far-reaching abilities.

Jim Knapp brings all of his Kenny Wheeler-like sensitivity to this session—his lovely melodicism paints a lyrical mood, especially on the ballad "On Going Home"; a tune he arranged and chose to feature with his big band. As a soloist, Knapp's trumpet sounds so round and rich, one swears he's playing Flugelhorn. Bergeron is here too, taking care of business with his rock-steady fiddle. Young bassists take note. Bob Moses is probably the best known musician on this recording and he brings a liberating spirit to Wallace's music. Mosian whoops and hollers populate the recording, encouraging, enticing, and celebrating the freedom that he feels while drumming.

There is truly something for everyone on this initial offering from Pax Wallace: "Equatorial Seattle" is a infectious jazz samba; "Elephant Migration" sports trundling polyrhythms; "Song for Spot" is an inside-outside tune replete with spoken word meditations on the reincarnations of an old Volkswagen. But, undoubtedly, the highlights of this CD are its ballads, "On Going Home," "Carolyn," and "Coastal Spirits."

In analytical terms, simply constructed melodies and complex harmonic progressions combine to form the launching pad for Wallace's ballads. Wallace reaps the rewards of space: a single note may be sustained over three of four chords. Harmony is obliquely linked and never fully resolved, complementing the sense of melodic space. The heart, however, speaks a different language. One feels the music's rich impressions. There is a sense of expansion and introspection, as if contemplating simultaneously a myriad of forgotten places, faces and sounds. Like a dream, one's never quite sure where it will lead.

Let me suggest your nearest jazz record store.

This review was previously published in Earshot Jazz magazine.


Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Live at the JazzRoom" CD/LP/Track Review Live at the JazzRoom
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 17, 2016
Read "Southern Avenue" CD/LP/Track Review Southern Avenue
by James Nadal
Published: February 10, 2017
Read "Un Viaje" CD/LP/Track Review Un Viaje
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: March 7, 2016
Read "Further Explorations" CD/LP/Track Review Further Explorations
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 23, 2016
Read "My Scandinavian Blues: A Tribute To Horace Parlan" CD/LP/Track Review My Scandinavian Blues: A Tribute To Horace Parlan
by Chris Mosey
Published: November 8, 2016
Read "New York Connections" CD/LP/Track Review New York Connections
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: August 7, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!