By Josef Woodard | Published June 2019
If airs of narrative design and ambiance buzz through Wing Walker Orchestra’s debut, consider the source: The seven-part “Hazelsuite” is a musical interpretation of graphic novelist Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga.
WWO’s de facto leader, multi-reedist Drew Williams, has created an enticingly fresh sound under the venerable big band umbrella—one not conventionally swinging, excessively abstract or cerebral in spirit. Minimalist structures and musical cells combine with brassy sonic washes and melodic-rhythmic notions, which are concurrently vibrant, accessible and subtly sophisticated.
For the most part, Williams deploys the group as a texture factory, with occasional bursts of soloing, including the leader’s bass clarinet feature and Jeff McLaughlin’s edgy electric guitar swagger on “H I G H,” one of three tracks not a part of the titular suite. “Hazelsuite” itself is a patchwork of shortish fragments, adding up to a lovely and complex musical statement.
File under music for unmade films, progressive big band sounds or jazz that just dodges easy categorization.
Hazelsuite: An Idea (Or The Horns); Backbone (Or The Wings); Ghosts (Or The Horrors); Lying (Or The Will); Interlude; Heists (Or Your Majesty); Ignition (Or Hazel); Look Around; We’ve Seen These Walls Crumble ... ; H I G H. (40:24)
Personnel: Brad Mulholland, alto saxophone, clarinet; Eric Trudel, tenor saxophone; Drew Williams, bass clarinet; John Blevins, Danny Gouker, trumpet; Karl Lyden, Nick Grinder, trombone; Jeff McLaughlin, guitar; Marta Sánchez, piano; Adam Hopkins, bass; Nathan Ellman-Bell, drums.