Intense, Gripping Jazz from Tim Hagans
Jazz trumpeter Tim Hagans has a hard-hitting, darkly intense, frequently noir new album, The Moon Is Waiting, just out on Palmetto. Hagans is a cerebral, uncompromising artist who dedicates himself to creating emotionally impactful music. As he sees it (he goes on at considerable length about this at his site), art might be the most powerful weapon we have against fascism. This record doesn’t seem to have any specific political meaning or message, but it delivers both dark and lighter emotions, and unexpected humor, in equally strong doses. It’ll inspire you to at the very least remember that having music like this is a right worth fighting for.
Alongside Hagans, Vic Juris plays guitar with tremendous, purist eclecticism, frequently reaching back to the 60s, and also to that era’s blues and rock, for tones and riffage. Rufus Reid on bass and Jukkis Uotila on drums swing hard through Hagans’ knotty, shapeshifting tempos and themes; Uotila also contributes tersely lyrical, somewhat brooding piano as well.
One real knockout here is the title track, straight out of the JD Allen school of intensity except for the fact that it’s about about six minutes long. Essentially, it’s just one long intro that keeps the suspense up and doesn’t let go. Hagans plays ominous chromatics over moody minor guitar chords; the background grows disassociative as the trumpet growls, disappears for a bit, comes back in warily and then shivers and screams over the warped, choppy waves behind him. Reid struggles briefly but memorably against the current before finally going under.
Ornette’s Waking Dream of a Woman is less Ornette than Taxi Driver theme, syncopated 70s noir cinematics that rumble in lockstep, slowly diverge, slither back and then give Juris the first of many moments to brighten the mood with some wry blues, which Hagans spins around and sends scurrying into the shadows again. They keep it noir with Get Outside, Hagans in pensive, spacious Miles mood over a tense minimalist piano/bass hook. Soon it goes starlit with solo piano, then takes on a surreal edge that resolves with surprising warmth once Juris gets ahold of it and rocks out a burning, ascending riff that Hagans drives triumphantly through the checkered flag.
What I’ll Tell Her Tonight is the funniest number here, and it’s a gem. It’s not clear who Hagans or his bandmates might be talking to or what they might say to her: what’s clear is that they’ve all been up to no good. Juris begins perfectly deadpan, talking a lot and saying absolutely nothing that has to be said; Hagans knows he’s done wrong but the band won’t let on, tiptoeing while the trumpet eventually goes all mealymouthed. There are other LOL moments here but none quite like this one.
The rest of the album alternates between apprehension and high spirits. Boo begins with deviously watery 80s chorus-box guitar, takes on an easygoing funk feel to the point where Reid lays down a sly solo of his own before once again – there’s a pattern here – Hagans amps up the suspense and the surveillance is on again. Wailing Trees is a darkly bracing mini-suite, a smartly crafted study in passing the anchor between band members as well as balancing tonal colors, drums vs. trumpet or guitar vs. bass. Likewise, Things Happen in a Convertible shifts from swing to quiet tension – particularly during a brilliantly methodical, spacious Reid solo – and then back and forth a couple of times, capped by some delicious chromatic runs by Hagans. He plays songs from this album with most of the same crew here this Thursday the 20th at 6 (six) PM at Birdland – if melodic jazz is your thing and your schedule allows, it’s a show you ought to catch.
No comments yet.