4 Stars **** Jazzwise Magazine
‘Dick Wag – a Tribute to Richard Wagner’ is a new jazz trio dedicated to the notorious German composer, despised and idolised in equal measure. Comprised of the most unlikely collaborators, this tribute band attempts to reconcile itself to opera’s most depraved, politically divisive and love-hated little man. With huge dramatic scenes boiled down to discreet miniatures, each expressed on a single piece of paper and treated like found objects as a jazz musician might, the resulting improvisations teeter surreally between the playful lyricism of swing and the abstraction of modernist prepared piano grooves.
Composer and multi-instrumentalist Fred Thomas has masterminded these respectfully profane interpretations of Wagner’s sublime, bombastic, time-stopping, sexually suggestive and earth-shatteringly beautiful creations by assembling a seemingly dysfunctional trio of motley talents. Prepared piano legend Benoît Delbecq’s child-like and profoundly vocal outbursts miraculously synthesise with Ewan Bleach’s unparalleled sense of melody and tone, glued together by Fred Thomas’ foundational bass playing. Deadly serious and and deadly silly, ’Dick Wag’ serves up chunks hacked off masterpieces such as Tristan and Isolde, transforming them into grotesque parodies of Teutonic pomp, luscious jazz ballads, jingoistic marches and Ellingtonian jungle grooves. And if you listen closely, just audible between the cracks of these affectionate caricatures, is the unmistakable sound of Richard Wagner turning in his grave.
“Jazz listeners will be happy to hear that you don’t have to like Wagner to like Dick Wag but ironically it actually might be a good entry point…..an affectionate parody” – Jazzwise Magazine
“Transformation is the word! Unlike the case of the straight-forward transcription of Wagner´s music undertaken by the Uri Caine Ensemble, the Dick Wag Trio explores it in search of new paths towards an unknown musical space…This throbbing sonority acts a musical trough in which Wagner’s material is first drained and then reassembled as a constellation of darkness and light permeated by a movingly sensitive touch of humour – a kind of ironic new age minimalism viewed through the eyes of Debussy and, as always, Ellington.
I left the Vortex as satisfied as I do after a good performance in Bayreuth, with some of the most original paraphrasing of Wagnerian tunes I ever heard ringing in my ears” – MundoClasico
Richard Wagner has met his musical match in the person of the present-day Fred Thomas, an astonishingly versatile composer, arranger and producer…This is someone with a strong instinct to make new things happen in a brilliantly individual way…..a master of many instruments. – London JazzNews
Fred Thomas – double bass and arrangements
Ewan Bleach – reeds
Benoît Delbecq – (prepared) piano
Recorded at Alice’s Loft Studios, London, December 2017
Engineered and mixed by Alex Bonney
Mastered by Peter Beckmann
Artwork by Peter Beatty
Produced by Fred Thomas
Released by Babel Label
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