August 2006

Rick Wald 16/NYC - Castaneda’s Dream
Glowbow 001
Format: CD
Released: 2006

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

Rick Wald has played jazz saxophone on the New York jazz scene since his arrival there in 1972. Through all the highs (tours of the US and over 20 countries) and the lows (driving taxi) Wald has seen and done most of what makes up the life of a jazz musician.

One thing he has never stopped doing is learning and composing. Having discovered that finding a long-term home with one of the major record labels would be difficult, Wald created his own label for this debut release. And though Wald credits many artists as his musical influences, I hear the music of Gil Evans (sans Miles Davis) as holding the tightest grip.

Wald has hit upon a big-band sound that flies in the face of accepted recording technique. By panning the band across the soundstage -- as opposed to setting it up section by section -- he is able to create an interplay among instruments that eludes most regularly arranged albums. Listen to any of the tracks on this disc to hear why I am so impressed, and why this disc is so enjoyable. Wald, like Evans, uses the entire tonal palate given him by the 16 musical voices, so you never know what is coming next. Toss in music that is both catchy and evocative and you have a recipe for a listening treat.

The overall sound is excellent. Instruments are easy to identify by their tonal signature -- and yet the blend achieves a "rainbow" of sound. The soundstage stretches only from speaker to speaker, with a fair approximation of depth. For an initial effort, this is much better than one should expect.