Billy Fox – The Uncle Wiggly Suite (CF 068)
Billy Fox is a percussionist and composer who for the occasion surrounded himself with a medium-size band (12 elements) whose names may be relatively unknown – except Mark Dresser on bass – yet their enthusiastic, technically gifted participation to this melange of “composition, arrangement and improvisation” yields many moments of considerable interest, especially when one realizes about the extreme variety of influences that this material presents. While most everything was born from fragments of inconsistent playing performed by Fox as an experiment while on the verge of sleep, the result certainly doesn’t cause the same reaction to the listeners, who are treated with a no-nonsense recipe in which dissonant lines and propulsive interplay lead to music that is both dense in thematic significance and driven by the desire of “sounding different”. An example is “Guzzle”, whose Arabian flavour is enhanced by a bass groove that could even be associated to some kind of rock vamp; over this, a series of pretty spectacular yet effective solos from reeds and violin throws us right in the middle of a desert. “Eyeball eyeball” is a finely textured jazz ballad in 3/4, in which Deanna Witkowski’s chordal work on the piano lays the pavement for an inspired trumpet solo by Percy Pursglove in one of the most enjoyable spots of the CD, followed by a tenor sax improvisation by Gary Pickard that remains lyrical enough to be savoured even without excess of concentration. Again, Witkowski closes the section with her own solo, which defines a track that according to Fox was born from “harmonic and melodic patterns that I never intended”. On the contrary, “The ghost of Col.Cobb” is a one-minute minimal experiment for shamisen and strings, as lighthearted as you might want to have it. When one’s reasonable enough not to expect complexity from everywhere, that’s the moment in which an album like “The Uncle Wiggly suite” comes and saves the weekend.