Marc Wagnon

Earth Is a Cruel Master

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Mark Wagnon comes from the world of rock and funk rather than straight-ahead jazz, making this contemporary fusion effort unique unto itself. Overdubbing drums, percussion, and keyboards alongside his ever-present vibraphone, Wagnon adds a spacy feeling to these original compositions, along with a beat-driven pulse. Guitarist Van Manakas, himself no stranger to commercial product, gives good account of himself as a team player or improviser when the need for it is called. While not formulaic in the strictest sense, there's good common sense employed, with a darker edge and muscular rhythms that allow Manakas and Wagnon freedom to produce a bigger sound. Where "Embarquement" is in a slowed funk with Manakas stepping up, "Backsheesh" is more involved with a backbeat supplying the foundation for a little swing and old-school-style '70s fusion. Wagnon is not so much stretching because of the overdubbing, but lays out ideas that are much more than afterthoughts. His marimba playing is pithy and warm on tracks like "Light at the End" in 6/8 time, more in the ethnic or jungle realm, while "Selective Memories" is similar, but Wagnon's marimba is much more pronounced and intricately woven into the fabric of the music. While the synthesizers added are more window dressing, and the beat a bit predictable, Wagnon strives for making modern music that is interesting, if not innovative. His previous recordings are better, but this one holds weight in terms credibility and taking calculated risks.

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