Billy Fox – The Uncle Wiggly Suite (CF 068)
Billy Fox is one of those composers, like Maria Schneider, who uses an orchestra as his instrument. On “The Uncle Wiggly Suite” he puts a changing group of musicians through a set of long pieces and fragments inspired mostly by dreams. Bassist Mark Dresser sets the pace on most of the longer works, like “Uncle Wiggly,” where his furious playing leads to the horns blaring out a spare five note theme against a brisk rhythmic pace. “Eyeball” is classic small group Jazz with trumpet and saxes pushing along a mellow theme reminiscent of some of Oliver Nelson’s or Andrew Hill’s writing. “Guzzle” has flute and cello leading the group in a placid Arabian setting, “Do The Wiggle” is a tight New Orleans brass band funk shuffle, and “Kooky Spooks” is a lovely waltz feature for the piano of Deanna Witkowski and the trumpet of Percy Pursglove. The five short pieces that alternate with these are tantalizing little fragments that could have easily gone longer, like “Stories,” an overdubbed clarinet and baritone sax fugue or “The Ghost Of Col. Cobb,” a nice taste of Blues played by violin, cello, and a shamisen riffing madly like a banjo. I’d like to hear these tiny pieces worked into something longer. Maybe Fox will get around to that later but he still shows plenty of composing and arranging skills on this CD.