When Sean Wayland gets inspiration, he holds nothing back. This Australian keyboardist/composer made a tough, funky fusion album a few years ago with Keith Carlock (drums), Tim LeFebvre (bass), Adam Rogers (guitar), James Muller (Guitar), and Matt Clohesy (Bass) called Pistachio (2009) and decided — what the hell — he’d throw in a Volume 2 for good measure. For Click Track Jazz: Slave to The Machine, Wayland indulges into the left of center rock-jazz of two guys he’s recently worked with: Allan Holdsworth and Wayne Krantz. The wound-tight fractured funk of Herbie Hancock’s Thrust is feted here, too, but also something else that’s often missing whenever synthesizers are introduced into jazz: the improvisational, swinging nature of traditional, piano trio jazz.
And yes, Wayland conducts his investigation of these ideas across two discs. That’s twenty-six new Wayland originals and one old Coltrane classic.
Thus, Wayland’s choice of weapons spans covers a wide array keyboards both vintage and technologically advanced: from a Steinway piano to a Hammond B3 organ, from a Fender Rhodes to MIDI generators and controllers. Don’t mind what he plays so much as how he plays it: cuts like the cheerful advanced bop of “Boxing Day” the lyrical “Oh Yeah” and the and melodically rich “Stop I Want To Get Off” are very much in the spirit of jazz. Some tracks are even completely acoustic even as they completely groove, like “Compression Is Your Friend” and “Neu Neu Blow” and other acoustic numbers such as “Special When Lit,” “Waiting For The Computer To Take Over” and “Oh Yeah” reveals Wayland’s mastery of advanced harmonics that signifies he’s been listening very closely to Hancock’s unplugged records, too.
In line with his stated purpose, many of Wayland’s tunes integrate the rhythmic and harmonic components of the song into an inseparable whole. “Belt Parkway” (stream below), the Krantz styled rocker “Marshmallows,” the B3 exhibition “Ditty,” “Neu Neu,” “Mark Is Enough” and “I’ll Face Ya” are some of the more notable examples, but there’s evidence of that strategy found on nearly every track.
But several of the tracks bear more than a passing resemblance to the music of Holdsworth, in particular his SynthAxe music, and Wayland’s got both Holdsworth’s unusual chord patterns and that SynthAxe sound down pat. “Conglomerate,” “QY70” and “Technocalypse” exemplifies how Holdsworth’s advanced style of composition can fit comfortably on a serious jazz record.
For this project, Wayland enlists the bassist and drummer from his working trio (Jochen Ruekert and Matt Penman), performing many of the tracks as a trio with Penman and Mark Guillana on drums. There are also appearances by Keith Carlock (drums), Krantz (guitar), Nate Wood (guitar), Jeff Hanley (bass), and Donny McCaslin (tenor sax).
Oh, and that Coltrane cover? One of the true highlights of either volume. Over a incendiary polyrhythmic rumble by Guilliana, Wayland play synth notes in a seemingly improvisational sequence, but gradually, the melody of “Giant Steps” comes into focus until it’s explicit at the end.
The point of Click Track Jazz seem to be the judicious use of modern instruments to reinvigorate the spirit of organic jazz. Perhaps that’s why Wayland states in the CD sleeves that “some of this music was composed for instruments designed before 1975.” He also means for it to be fun, following up that statement with, “some of this music is corny fusion music.”
Click Track Jazz: Slave to The Machine, Vols. 1 & 2 went on sale October 9, by Wayland’s Seed Music. Visit Sean Wayland’s website for more info.
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