July 2008

Rick Wald 16/NYC - Play That Thing
Glowbow 002
Format: CD
Released: 2008

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

As jazz becomes more and more marginalized, the appearance of a new big-band recording can send spasms of ecstasy coursing through the veins of any connoisseur. New York veteran Rick Wald has tapped into the large New York jazz scene to obtain the best players to make up his 16/NYC big band. Programming an intoxicating mix of standards and original compositions, he pulls out all the stops on Play That Thing. Listen to the way he takes tunes as well known as "Maiden Voyage" and "Stompin’ at the Savoy" and draws them out to emphasize their ethereal beauty, slowing them down even further to allow his musicians to display their wares to the fullest. But don’t think that this is only a jazz-waltz album; numbers such as the title cut and "Gonna Getcha" will quickly dissuade you of that idea. While Wald falls under the influence of many, I hear the main one as Gil Evans. This shows primarily in the way he charts tonal colors and tempo.

And while a new big-band album is going to be hailed no matter how it sounds, Wald gives more than passing attention to the sonics of his creations. I would expect no less from a man who frequents some of the audiophile forums to both educate and learn. So whether it’s a soloist or group harmonies, he makes sure instruments stand out as individuals, fully rounded in form and function. Tone and timbre are as good as Red Book CD can give. The soundstage is spread out between the outer edges of the speakers, and there’s a nice sense of depth, which allows you to follow any instrument you please.

Given the first-rate musicianship, it all adds up to is a disc that can (and should) be atop the "must buy" list of jazz fans anywhere.