The Uncle Wiggly Suite
Mark Dresser bass / Deanna Witkowski piano / John Savage alto saxophone, flute / Gary Pickard tenor & soprano saxophones / Percy Pursglove trumpet / John O’Brien drums / Christopher Hoffman cello / Paul Faatz clarinet & bass clarinet, baritone saxophone / Arun Luthra tenor & soprano saxophones / Skye Steele violin / Scott Shaeffer bass / Danny Katz shamisen / Billy Fox congas, triangle
Percussionist and composer Billy Fox is a specialist in combining worlds that live apart. His “Uncle Wiggly Suite” is a mix of atonal music, Sixties modal jazz, New Orleans brass bands, Cuban rhythms, Pakistani ghazals, and much more (one of the tracks includes a shamisen, a traditional string Japanese instrument), and he usually combines composition, arrangement and improvisation. A pupil of soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom, he formed his ensemble with emergent young musicians like himself (Gary Pickard, John Savage and Christopher Hoffman being regular companions), giving the bass position to a master of the instrument and someone always open to new ideas, Mark Dresser, a “jazz inventor”, as the press already called him. In the past, Fox played it all, punk, rockabilly, speed metal, hip-hop, as well as mambo, and now he’s profiting from all those experiences. The basis for these compositions is the murky twilight state of semi-sleep, the borderline states of awareness and near-unconscious thought-with Billy in bed, a cheap keyboard within reach and a minidisc recorder to document the results. The recording yielded a curious series of notes that he later developed while wide awake, finding harmonic possibilities compatible with the rubato lines that had emerged from his unconscious mind. The structure is classical (a suite in ten parts), the basics are jazz, and the resulting music is from this planet at the beginning of the 21st century. But with a humorous side, inspired by the comics of Howard Garis, and loads of irony.