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The Wakem/Nielson Project

When I received this CD in the post I knew very little about ‘The new Fuse Box‘ as I had only seen a few mentions of them online.     Happily I will never be in that state of ignorance again.     While this may not be your typical Jazz offering it is never-the-less highly enjoyable and as the Jazz scene in Auckland matures we are learning to appreciate a diversity of soundscapes.     This is not quite the raw and highly energised music of a live band but it is enjoyable, well arranged and beautifully articulated.   The music has a depth that may elude the listener at first play, but listen again and it will get under your skin and stay there.

This is essentially Kiwi music (Auckland music), and a sense of space and sunlight pervades the album.   Over the years I have come to recognise that there is a certain discernible quality when Jazz has developed in remote-from-the-centre locations; this sense of place exists in juxtaposition to the usual traditional aspects.    Scandinavian,  French, Italian, Sardinian, Spanish and German Jazz all have a unique something that would not have arisen had the music been made in America.   New Zealand Jazz is now claiming its own space.

There are fifteen tracks on the album and they skillfully mine a number of vibes.   There are funk infused tracks and soulfully slow tracks but they all seem to work as part of a cohesive whole.   Above all this music does not take itself too seriously as there is musical humour as well.   While I have many favourite tracks I simply cannot resist the intentionally over-the-top and utterly delightful ‘Bossa Tossa‘.     This track will put a big smile on your face.   There is also a filmic quality to this material and the best of Jazz movie-score writing is conjured up here.

All of the material has been composed and arranged by Lindsay Wakem (horns arranged by Chris Nielson).   Lindsay is terrific on piano and keyboards and I hope that he will give us longer solos on future releases as the piano is often back in the mix.   His piano playing has a crispness and clarity to it and I am keen to hear more.   ‘The New Fuse Box‘ is a multi- talented band and Chris Nielson the co-leader needs a mention at this point.   When I looked at the credits and I saw, ‘horns- Chris Nielson’ I was puzzled.   I phoned Lindsay and asked him if there were uncredited horn players.   I quickly learned that Chris is not only the trumpet section but that he plays all of the saxophone parts as well.   The charts are gorgeous and the multi-tracking so seamless that it is a struggle to imagine him playing all of these parts.   The drummer, on all tracks except one, is the well known and much respected Jason Orme (Blue Train etc).  Jason can take on any task in Jazz drumming and he is a an asset here.  The bass player is Phil Scorgie.  He and Lindsay go back a long way.  Other artists appear on single tracks and they are guitarists, Dean Kerr & Frans Huysmans – Kody Nielson drums.

Jazz is a music which teaches us something of history and struggle, but more importantly it is a music founded in the desire for change.   It is not a museum piece and so it should always explore and challenge the world around it.   This album does that and I look forward to more from them.   The ACT and ECM labels (both German) have profiled this sort of jazz to great advantage.     There is a real market for this material and I hope to see more of it.

ACT’s Lars Dannielson, Blue Note’s Bob Beldon and ECM’s Mathias Eick have paved the way and our own bands should now be welcomed into this interesting space.   The album is self produced and so for a copy contact:  lgwakem@xtra.co.nz

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