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Max Wild spent his formative years in Zimbabwe, where he learned to play the saxophone and came under the influence of the country's music. It is not surprising, then, that his debut album dwells largely on the rhythms that fascinated him.
Wild brings a lyrical style of play on several of the songs. He cues in on the rhythm and his band locks in as well, so many of the songs come off strong and heady. A "New Beginning" is defined by a slow waltz tempo. Wild states the theme crisply and then goes on to sweeten the melody, the skein further unravelled by Soren Moller, whose piano wraps a gentle fall of notes. Wild returns with a harder groove for his explorations before returning to the theme. "Ndindindi" flies on an exhilarating African rhythm, the guitar of Jesse Lewis acting as the messenger for the sinuous melody. The saxophone curls in on short, jumpy notes before it gets deeper into the pulse and spins dizzyingly.
Wild changes the shape of "Remember Me," nestling a slow tempo between sunny Latin cavorting. Some of the best moments come when Lewis slides into spaces and adds extra dimensions. The band plays a stripped down version of "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" at a funereal pace that cuts loose the bounce and perkiness that were an integral part of the composition. Despite this and Wild's occasional tendency to overblow, Zambezi Sunset is an appealing record.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.