Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

395

Billy Fox: The Uncle Wiggly Suite

Budd Kopman By

Sign in to view read count
In the notes to The Uncle Wiggly Suite, composer Billy Fox tells the story of the genesis of the thematic kernel that makes up the connecting thread that runs through the pieces in this suite. This fine music lives in cracks between many things: composition vs. improvisation, accessibility vs. pure expression, mainstream vs. avant-garde, consciousness vs. the unconscious and the rational vs. the irrational.

Taking a compositional technique suggestion to the extreme, Fox recorded himself noodling at the keyboard as he drifted in and out of the edges of sleep. As he relates, most of it was "totally worthless...except for the series of notes that became the title track of this suite."

This "melody" is played out of time (as it was recorded) in the first track with the instruments not even trying to play together, making their entrances ragged. Played over very sharp cymbal work by John O'Brien and driving bass by Mark Dresser, this theme sticks in the mind, and has a spooky resemblance to a track from David Borgo's Reverence For Uncertainty.

It is no surprise that "Uncle Wiggly" is placed first, because it is almost fourteen minutes of non-stop playing that manages to be very tight post-bop while constantly threatening to break down into the atonality of the theme, as very good solos strain against the confines of the bass and drums. It's a killer track, well played, and quite exciting.

The subsequent tracks have more or less clear links to the original melodic fragment that tie together the suite. In the notes, Fox details some these relationships, saying further that he found harmonic and melodic patterns he never intended, concluding that creation can come from conscious decisions or semi-conscious ramblings.

The origin of the music is very interesting, as is the theory of creativity, but in the end, the only thing that matters is whether the music engages the listener, which The Uncle Wiggly Suite most certainly does.

It is hard to tell where the line between composition/arrangement and improvisation lies, which is always a good sign, and the musicians (a main sextet augmented by six others on different tracks) really dig in and seem to be having a very good time.

Many different musical influences are apparent including a New Orleans feel on "Do the Wiggle," the quasi straight-ahead "Uncle Wiggly," the light Latin feel of "The Ghost of Col. Cobb," the pretty waltz ballad "Eyeball Eyeball" and a lot of humor. The pacing of the album is also very good.

Fox's music is a very enticing mix of the accessible and the quirky, making the formal elements an extra bonus. The feel of the familiar combined with constant surprises is very enticing and enables Uncle Wiggly to give listening pleasure many times.

Track Listing: Uncle Wiggly; D-D-Dribble; Guzzle; Nasturtium; Eyeball Eyeball; The Ghost of Col. Cobb; Do the Wiggle; Stories; Kooky Spooks; Nighty Night.

Personnel: Mark Dresser: bass (1,2,3,5,7,9); Deanna Witkowski: piano (1,2,5,7,9,10); John Savage: alto saxophone (1,5,7), flute (2,3); Gary Pickard: tenor saxophone (1,5,7), soprano saxophone (3); Percy Pursglove: trumpet (1,5,7,9); John O'Brien: drums (1,5,7,9); Christopher Hoffman: cello (3,6); Paul Faatz: clarinet, bass clarinet (3), baritone saxophone (4); Arun Luthra: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone (4); Skye Steele: violin (6); Scott Schaefer: bass (6); Danny Katz: shamisen (6); Billy Fox: congas, triangle (4).

Title: The Uncle Wiggly Suite | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Acknowledgement CD/LP/Track Review Acknowledgement
by Don Phipps
Published: November 23, 2017
Read Lessons And Fairytales CD/LP/Track Review Lessons And Fairytales
by Jerome Wilson
Published: November 23, 2017
Read The Child in Me CD/LP/Track Review The Child in Me
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: November 23, 2017
Read The Way Home CD/LP/Track Review The Way Home
by Joe Gatto
Published: November 23, 2017
Read Shadow Work CD/LP/Track Review Shadow Work
by Phil Barnes
Published: November 22, 2017
Read Veterans of Jazz CD/LP/Track Review Veterans of Jazz
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 22, 2017
Read "Nightfall" CD/LP/Track Review Nightfall
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 6, 2017
Read "3rio" CD/LP/Track Review 3rio
by Pascal-Denis Lussier
Published: May 1, 2017
Read "Live" CD/LP/Track Review Live
by Karl Ackermann
Published: September 14, 2017
Read "The Day After" CD/LP/Track Review The Day After
by David A. Orthmann
Published: February 14, 2017
Read "Counteraction" CD/LP/Track Review Counteraction
by Roger Farbey
Published: March 20, 2017
Read "Esse" CD/LP/Track Review Esse
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 5, 2017

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!

Please support out sponsor