Sigh! At some point, I'm going to have to start a new career as advertising consultant to music ensembles 'cause far too many either haven't a clue about marketing or hand the task of CD design and such over to others just as wanting. Ira Wiggins, in When Freedom Swings, turns in a set of sparklingly upbeat jazz tunes, 93 minutes worth, but the cover's holiday snap of an exotic oceanic beach-rock formation hardly conveys to the consumer what's going on beneath the liner. Sure, you DO get an oft tropical feel in this twofer, but that photo says 'New Age' or 'Cheezoid' just a tad too loudly, rather than "Yo! Cool-ass trad jazz with righteous modern infusions here, y'all!". Yep, that's what I'm going to have to do. If you soon no longer read my reviews in these pages, it'll be because I became a millionaire consultant and retired to wherever it was the photo was taken.
Wiggins is not only an adept sax player and flautist (and I'm quite enamored of his handling of the latter) but also a PhD in Music Education along with other degrees. In fact, were I to list all his honors, there'd be no room left for the review, so suffice it to say that the guy knows from intelligence and then some. This becomes very clear once you lend an ear to his work. The arrangements in Freedom are uniformly engaging, free spirited, and way easy on the ears while 100% beautifully crafted. You'd have to go back to old George Benson, Tim Weissberg, and Chuck Mangione materials to find their like. The ensemble, as well, is exceptionally versed in the mode, an extension of the old West Coast Cool when all's said and done, and Ed Paolantonio swings out a truly choice piano, the linch pin of much of everything in the CD.
Wiggins' flute will bring back the era of Charles Lloyd and the 70s, when the instrument had really firm footing in jazz, but, God, his sax work, as in the ultra-Romantic opening to Shepherd's Song, can melt the most obdurate heart or ear just as easily, liquid gold flowing out from your speakers. Of course, he also knows how to kick up his heels and plenty of that transpires as well. And how often do you get to hear vibes and marimba any more? Not often enough, but Jon Metzger mallets away in four cuts. Overall, Freedom is music for a swingin' BBQ on a summer's afternoon with a cool breeze washing over a back yard full of shorts, spangled shirts and blouses, sandals, and smiling faces. There are ballads, such as Ray Noble's Cherokee and Guaraldi's Christmas Time is Here (included for Wiggins' mother, who love 'Charlie Brown music'), but they go right along with the program, providing side pools of reflection and wistfulness before moving on to the next two-step and hipsway.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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