Vibraphonist Wagnon has heard the fusion music of the '70s, and it has stuck with him. He's also quite cognizant of post-bop jazz horns, James Brown, and siren songs as evoked during much of this effort by Sarah Pillow. Trumpeters Dave Douglas and, especially, Tim Ouimette, trombonists Phil Arnold for the bulk and Ray Anderson for two solos, guitarist Van Manakas, bassist Greg Jones, and drummer Frank Katz round out this well-rounded, thoroughly contemporary, daring, and modern music ensemble. Pillow, as vocalist and lyricist, takes the lioness share of these "tunes." Her instrument is impressive, as flexible, scattable, dour and deep, or joyous and bold as anyone might need. A pained woman's anthem "Venus Incognito" goes from funk bridge to spacey and back, a tortured fighter's lament informs the poignant words and calmed funk of "The Warrior," while sweet oohs and ahhs follow the more quirky chart over a one-note bass ostinato and hard funk for Ouimette's solo and Wagnon's oriental flavored vibes during the title cut. In a more operatic, spooky, wordless stance (remembering Eileen Gilbert of the Jazz Modes?), Pillow lights up the complex staccato horn collective with Douglas on "Aria," and in a direct, no-nonsense fashion calls out "politicians, fire trucks, rabbis, lawyers, liars, health officials, allies, bankers, or robbers" who cannot put out the fire of human ignorance of "Slow Burn," scatting a bit as well. Pillow also waxes woefully on the serene "Ode to a Star," again scatting on the bridge. The instrumental tracks are equally virile. The hip funk of "New Old World" is guitar led, horn followed, and they join together in neat, clean splendor, a truly original musical idea requiring your attention. A 5/4-based "Sound Sculpture" sports a bright second melody after Ouimette's solo, and the cool funk of "The Shadowline" has Douglas again in the ensemble of a great unison horn line, with an inserted Afro-Cuban percussion workout. Katz presents the coda of the CD in a drum solo "Postlude." This recording holds interest from start to finish, the musicianship and originality is lofty, and Wagnon should be quite proud of this individualists effort. Recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos