395

Billy Fox: The Uncle Wiggly Suite

Budd Kopman By

Sign in to view read count
Billy Fox: The Uncle Wiggly Suite 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).

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records


Shop

More Articles

Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2) CD/LP/Track Review TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2)
by Nicola Negri
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Goat Man & The House of the Dead CD/LP/Track Review Goat Man & The House of the Dead
by Dave Wayne
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by James Nadal
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "2nd Thoughts" CD/LP/Track Review 2nd Thoughts
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 8, 2017
Read "Eleven Promises" CD/LP/Track Review Eleven Promises
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 30, 2016
Read "Of The Musical" CD/LP/Track Review Of The Musical
by Paul Naser
Published: December 29, 2016
Read "Live At Blues Alley" CD/LP/Track Review Live At Blues Alley
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 13, 2016
Read "Live At The Troubadour 1969" CD/LP/Track Review Live At The Troubadour 1969
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: January 14, 2017
Read "She Sleeps, She Sleeps" CD/LP/Track Review She Sleeps, She Sleeps
by John Eyles
Published: March 15, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

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!