Master trombonist, composer, arranger, and producer… WAYNE WALLACE is all those things, and he is increasingly on the rise. After being on the “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition” list in DownBeat’s Critics’ Poll for two years in a row, this year he was “recognized,” making it to the trombone pantheon in DownBeat’s 57th Annual Critics’ Poll. With a formidable career that has seen him on the stage and in the studio with countless luminaries of contemporary music from all genres, Wallace’s light is burning bright with a growing catalog of critically acclaimed releases on his Patois label, which also supports the efforts of numerous fellow West Coast musicians whose careers are blossoming. ¡BIEN BIEN! is the second release of The Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet, whose debut CD Infinity was voted “Album of the Week” by Latin Jazz Corner; spent two weeks at #2 on Jazz Week’s “World Music Top 50 Charts”; and led Nelson Rodriguez of Latin Beat Magazine to declare: “Based on this CD, Wayne Wallace has become my choice for the title of ‘Musician of the Year.’”
¡BIEN BIEN! is an intriguing collection of three Wallace originals, a Memo Acevedo tune, and five “straight ahead” tunes that Wallace has masterfully reconfigured into extremely satisfying Latin Jazz vehicles. He and his band mates Murray Low (piano); David Belove (bass); Michael Spiro (Latin percussion); and Paul van Wageningen (trap drums), have created another tour de force, and the presence of two special guests – the legendary trombonist Julian Priester and the up-and-coming virtuoso jazz vocalist Kenny Washington – beautifully augments the cohesion of this longstanding ensemble.
Highlights of this scintillating disc include: the title track, a head-bopping tune by Wallace that features his signature tight horn writing, and incredibly, features him playing all the parts; Wallace’s arrangement of Freedom Jazz Dance (Baile De Libertad), a phenomenal transformation of this famous Eddie Harris tune featuring two vocalists, Orlando Torriente and Kenny Washington, whose trading session at the end of the tune burns the roof down; the exquisitely sensual and heartfelt reading of Ellington’s In a Sentimental Mood; the red-hot rendition of Ellington’s Going Up! (¡Súbete!), where Wallace pays tribute to trombone giants Lawrence Brown, “Tricky” Sam Nanton, and Juan Tizol, by joining by the legendary Julian Priester (a former member of the Ellington orchestra), and Dave Martell for rousing trombone section playing as well as exciting solo turns for each; and Wallace’s reworking of the Coltrane composition Africa, a heartfelt tribute to the late saxophonist Ron Stallings. As Wallace states in his liner notes, “The search for new means of expression is a constant in music and life that occurs when we surrender in grace and embrace the unknown.” With this disc, Wallace and his quintet affirm that they have gracefully surrendered, and we thankfully embrace their work.
The musically multi-lingual San Francisco native Wayne Wallace possesses fluency in countless styles, and has worked with a staggering number of luminaries from across the musical spectrum. His resume includes work with Count Basie, Ray Charles, Joe Henderson, Celine Dion, Carlos Santana, Lionel Hampton, Earth, Wind, & Fire, Sonny Rollins, Pearl Bailey, Aretha Franklin, Tito Puente, Lena Horne, Pete Escovedo, Stevie Wonder, John Lee Hooker, Earl "Fatha" Hines and cellist Jean Jeanrenaud of the Kronos String Quartet. Known to many as “The Doctor” for his production skills, he is also a lauded composer who received an N.E.A. grant for jazz composition. His independent label, Patois Records, has released critically acclaimed CDs by all of its artists.