Somnambule - Writing About Music

DJ Wally ~ Nothing Stays The Same

Thirsty Ear has positioned itself consciously at a median point between popular groove-based musics and exploratory jazz. On this release DJ Wally has at his disposal music played by some of the cream of free jazz players including Shipp, David S. Ware and William Parker. Nothing Stays The Same is composed of a number of medium length pieces, 4 or 5 minutes long, interspersed with shorter pieces, the briefest of which is a mere 23 seconds long.

Peter Gordon’s rather gorgeous, breathy flute threads its way through synth washes which soon fade out leaving the flute to pirouette against silence. “A Day In The Life” brings on the beats and then walks them all over the place. Organ stabs, David Ware’s sax and Gordon’s flute combine together then pause briefly for a short beatless section of pouring rain mingled with vibes, then the beat kicks in again underpinned by William Parker’s warm, on-the-one bass. There’s a strong sense of a narrative musical portrait being painted in sound by DJ Wally.

By the fourth track, Thirsty Thrills, it’s clear that DJ Wally’s method is to separate out the melodic kernels of the players’ solos and deploy them into musical collages. This technique, like labelmate DJ Spooky’s Optometry is concerned with creating fluent compositions and moods rather than exploring the possibilities of rupture and surprise as exemplified by many of the original hiphop sample-heavy classics. Indeed, there is a precedent for this in jazz production in some of Teo Macero’s early 1970s work with Miles Davis. Given the combative, driving nature of the free jazz which comprises part of Thirsty Ear’s output, it would be interesting to hear a merging of the twin poles of groove and free jazz, challenging though such a prospect would be to achieve. The eighth track “Shipp Solo (Interlude)” illustrates this dichotomy: it is a short, but demanding acoustic piano solo unmediated by any form of intervention by DJ Wally. There are many possibilities still to explore in the meeting between DJ/producer and the new jazz.

It would be churlish, however, to judge Nothing Stays The Same on criteria which it has evidently not set out to abide by. The fourteen tracks here display a wide variety of fascinating soundscapes and atmospheres which over the course of the cd travel a path of from cinematic mise-en-scene (“A Day In The Life”) to the psychedelic (“Paint By Number”) and tripped-out (“A-Plus”). DJ Wally’s latest release is a musical travelogue which navigates spaces, times and moods with grace and elan.
Colin Buttimer
October 2003
Published by All About Jazz