Robert Wagner's reeds exude a soulful sound. The New Orleans-based woodwind musician goes on extended improvisational romps on this trio recording while his band of bassist James Singleton and drummer James Alsanders lays down a solid foundation for his lift-off. Wagner's expansive solos filter from his tenor, alto, or soprano with gliding consistency. He does not display jagged edges or raspy abrasiveness in his delivery but instead allows the streams of notes to pour out in smoothly flowing waves of sound.
One of the more compelling songs on the disc is 'Arthur Blythe.' Wagner spins out a tune very much in the tradition of Blythe's composing style. He salutes Blythe by capturing the big man's essence while making the song distinctly his own property. Wagner is very much at home with slower-paced ballads where his full tonality comes to the fore to express emotion, as he does so eloquently on 'Tears of the Sun.'
Wagner's team is behind him all the way. Both Singleton and Alsanders give him all the support necessary to fly on high. There are occasional solo moments for the two and opportunities for them to interact as a duo, but their main role appears to be as underpinning pillars for the ongoing wealth of free speech gushing from Wagner's horns. Singleton plays mournful arco stretches on the tender selections to add substance, and Alsanders is in constant motion propelling Wagner to greater heights
When the tempo kicks into the fast lane, Wagner goes into non-stop mode with reams of free-sailing improvisations pouring relentlessly from his reeds. His playing, however, always appears to have tangible handles for latching on and riding with him. He builds up a head of steam, but the tail of the comet is graspable, seemingly never out of reach. The logical development to his improvisations makes this communication possible.
The compositional base, which is all Wagner's, provides extensive space for him to excel. The tunes bubble over with soul expressed in liberated terms. Wagner assembled a solid band, and the trio marches in lock step to offer music with spirit, sensitivity, and softened muscularity. The set projects Wagner as a top-rate improviser and composer who relays his message convincingly.
Track Listing: Walking, Crying, Laughing, Running (4:45) / Arthur Blythe (7:03) / Tears of the Sun (14:33) / Mister E
(5:43) / Peaceful (8:00) / No Answer (7:12) / You Slippin (5:16) / Kio?s Song (4:43).
Personnel: Robert Wagner-tenor, alto, & soprano saxophone; James Singleton-bass; James Alsanders-drums.
Recorded: December 18, 2002, New Orleans, LA.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.