Rob Wagner Trio(Pt. 2)


June 06, 2005

*For a basic description of the band and their sound, read the site's first review of the trio.

It was silly for a while, there. Benjamin Lyons is the protector of the city's modern jazz scene and producer/manager for the Rob Wagner Trio. He and I were the ones you could count on seeing at d.b.a. to watch the trio every week. This was before the site. I was just a fan. I felt like something special happened when the trio played, and I still feel that way. They weren't afraid to use poppy melodies and simple funk grooves in jazz. Of course, they weren't the first modern jazz group to fuse things, but so many bands were all about breaking away from tradition and making sure everyone understood they were being pioneers("Hey, everybody, look over here! We're playing fusion. We're crazy!"). The Rob Wagner Trio will trick you. They stick to the regular jazz song structure, so at first glance they seem like a regular modern jazz band. Look again. They seamlessly blend rock, funk, and pop. Why are you headbanging? Why are you weaving it around like Ray Charles? Why is your mouth wide open?

Because there's no weak link in the trio. How many modern jazz bands contain members who could be the city's best player at their instrument? Astral Project, maybe? In the end, it doesn't matter if bassist James Singleton, saxophonist Rob Wagner, or drummer Ossie Davis are the best. They can certainly keep up with their competition. All that matters is that Davis, Wagner, and Singleton are the best players for the trio. They've been playing every week together for at least the last year-and-a-half, and it's paid off. Each player is better at his instrument, and they're so tuned into each other while playing that they don't have to use any outward form of communication. They make it look easy. Like Michael Jordan. He was a cool customer. He never really gave any sign that he was about to pull off some crazy move and awe the crowd. He just did it(No pun intended. Oh, man, Nike has invaded my brain). Before they went into an epic fifteen minute song to start out their set at d.b.a. Monday night, Singleton just said, "Let's try and get some people in here." And they did. For the rest of the night, every solo ended with huge applause, hoots and hollers came at off moments, and songs ended with a collective deep breath, like the room was remembering how to breathe at the same time.

Davis has made the most progress since our last review. Sure, he's a better drummer, but it has more to do with his comfort within the band. Singleton and Wagner are founding members. For a while, the drum stool spun until Davis locked it down. Davis used to careen off his game every once and while, but now he takes the spotlight. At the end of one song, he exploded the swing with speed until there were pieces all over the floor. He just kept playing, and nothing's better when the accompanying players are willing to rise just as far. Wagner and Singleton followed him to a beautiful, frenzied noise.

Singleton was his usual funky, nasty self. He added distortion at whim and looped his lines with effects pedals to trip. That distortion dug so deep into the skin. Make you wanna jump up and get down on the dancefloor with somebody you don't know. It was dangerous. Where's James Brown so I can show him? "Too hot in the hot tub."

Wagner was more confident than usual, which is saying a lot. He's normally pretty confident, but last night he was a fort protected by an arsenal of three saxophones. I feel bad I can't explain it. You'll just have to see it.

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