Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.


Steve Wiest And Phröntrange: The High Road

Dan Bilawsky By

Sign in to view read count
You don't encounter a lot of trombone-centric fusion dates these days. But then again, you also don't encounter too many musicians like Steve Wiest, the unabashedly enthusiastic veteran trombonist fronting this project. He's a true polymath, respected as a performer, educator, science fiction author, cartoonist, and composer-arranger. But he also clearly knows how to let rip and have a good time. That much is made clear on this powerful date.

The High Road was born out of a change of professional circumstances and scenery. After spending more than two decades in Texas, where he first established his sterling reputation as an educator and later directed the world-renowned One O'Clock Lab Band at The University of North Texas, Wiest accepted a teaching position at The University of Denver's Lamont School of Music and relocated to the Colorado Front Range. The new homestead inspired him to put together the wryly spelled Phröntrange, a fiery and feisty outfit that simply uses fun as its credo.

Wiest's dead serious skills are counterbalanced here with his humor and good-natured personality. He proves to be a commanding soloist, ably traversing the tricky ground that he himself laid out on these hip and incendiary charts, but his strong statements are often spiked with levity. It's that willingness to don the mask of the warrior and the garb of the humorist that makes for such an appealing mix on this album.

The majority of these seven pieces—five Wiest originals along with his takes on Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island" and Fred Rogers' "Please Don't Think It's Funny"—serve both as labs for experimentation and vehicles to pay homage to a number of important figures and influences. "The Vinnie Paradox" is a nod to drum virtuoso Vinnie Colaiuta and his mastery of metric sleight of hand, "Cantaloupe Island" capitalizes on Hancock's comping skills and moves away from the all-too-recognizable original, "Violet Iris" is a colorful trip back to Wiest's childhood days in the garden at his great grandmother's Missouri home, and "A Stern Talking Too" is an edgy rocker that salutes guitar-slinger Mike Stern. Then there's the slinky "Miles Slide," a hybridized tribute that merges '80s Miles Davis with Slide Hampton's "Frame For The Blues," and the balladic "Please Don't Think It's Funny," a performance that honors Rogers by touching on his purity of spirit. By the time you arrive at the album closer—the raunchy and funky "Shred Or Shred Not (There Is No Try)"—Wiest has already made his mark with this band and made a case for this music.

The jazz police and the nose-in-the-air crowd may see this as atavistic art, redolent of fusion's past and full of its trademark excess(es), but those groups rarely see the fun in anything. Let them go elsewhere and let those open to a good time and great music keep this one all to themselves.

Track Listing: The Vinnie Paradox; Cantaloupe Island; Violet Iris; A Stern Talking Too; Miles Slide; Please Don't Think It's Funny; Shred Or Shred Not (There Is No Try).

Personnel: Steve Wiest: trombone; Mike Abbot: guitar; Eduardo "Bijoux" Barbosa: bass; Art Bouton: EWI; Eric Gunnison: keyboards; Mike Marlier: drums; Carmen Wiest: violin; Matthew Wiest: cello (3).

Title: The High Road | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Blujazz Productions


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Lucas CD/LP/Track Review Lucas
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: January 22, 2018
Read In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording CD/LP/Track Review In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 22, 2018
Read D'Agala CD/LP/Track Review D'Agala
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 22, 2018
Read Not Bound CD/LP/Track Review Not Bound
by Don Phipps
Published: January 22, 2018
Read Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House CD/LP/Track Review Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 21, 2018
Read Journey to a New World CD/LP/Track Review Journey to a New World
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 21, 2018
Read "TajMo" CD/LP/Track Review TajMo
by James Nadal
Published: April 19, 2017
Read "Verisimilitude" CD/LP/Track Review Verisimilitude
by Karl Ackermann
Published: August 6, 2017
Read "The Truth" CD/LP/Track Review The Truth
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 17, 2017
Read "The Book of Transfigurations" CD/LP/Track Review The Book of Transfigurations
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: May 8, 2017
Read "Provenance" CD/LP/Track Review Provenance
by Geno Thackara
Published: November 11, 2017
Read "Songbook" CD/LP/Track Review Songbook
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: April 7, 2017