Rob Wagner's New Thing

The Dragon's Den

December 28, 2003

Rob Wagner’s New Thing joked about Mad Cow Disease like old friends before their opening set at The Dragon's Den. In a moment’s notice, Wagner snapped his fingers, and the musicians put their game faces on. The ability of each seasoned musician to fit appropriately into the group made it such a quality experiment.

The free-form group was funk/groove based, but each member threw his jazz background into each number. The sound was reminiscent of Morphine, but only a larger, more wacked-out version. The band consisted of two percussionists, two saxophonists, a trumpet player, a drummer and an upright bass player.

The band enjoyed leaving the song’s main theme in the head of the listener, only to take out and give back certain rhythmic qualities for diversity. The musicians were talented at restraint, but they were also confident enough to go out on a limb and expect the rest to follow. In addition, they weren't afraid to abandon an idea in mid-song if it wasn't not working.

The running structure for the four song, hour long set was that a sax set the base melody line. Once a groove was established, the sax or another horn soloed or went off and set another line on top of the original one. This interweaving put me in a trance-like mood—the rear section of the venue had many people bobbing their heads slowly. The band was having fun, and the call and response of the saxes was a prime example, along with the drummer’s use of bird calls.

The only problem I had was that they got lost in a slow groove and forgot to push the envelope and progress; eventually they came out of it, though. The band sometimes took a little while to find a gold nugget, but their performance was all about the journey, anyway. There were a lot of lovely sites along the way.

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