Muziek is Paul and Marc van Wageningen’s first release as band leaders, but the ubiquitous brothers have performed and recorded extensively since moving from Amsterdam to San Francisco 30 years ago. Perhaps unaware of him by name, you may have heard (and seen) Marc on bass in the house band on “The Wayne Brady Show,” touring with Tower of Power in 2002, with Sheila E in 2001 or on Steve Winwood’s “Gotta Get Back to My Baby.” Paul, on drums, has recorded with Turtle Island String Quartet, performed on sound tracks for movies such as “The Firm” and “Internal Affairs” and for video games such as Sim City 300 and Monkey Island. While these accomplishments offer glimpses into their extensive resumes the greatest testament to their artistry may be the reputation they enjoy among their peers. Drawing on their three decades of experience and with the help of some of the talented artists they have met along their journey, Paul and Marc (who now kindly go by the abbreviated appellation, “VW Brothers”), offer their premier CD, Muziek. All but two tracks (“Milestones” by Miles Davis and “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life” by Michel Legrand) were written by Marc van Wageningen who also contributes most of the arrangements.
The first track, “Euro (prelude),” is a short intro of about one minute, which, on the final track, is embellished to nearly six minutes and serves as the coda to the 11-track collection. What is surprising about these two pieces is that they are string arrangements (three violins & cello) with English horn, flute, and in the coda, piano and accordion. Between these neo-classical bookends lies an eclectic mix of jazz standards and original compositions replete with Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, and funk influences. With Marc and Paul on bass and drums respectively, the guest artists take on important roles as soloists and the VW Brothers have assembled an impressive line up. David K. Matthews, formerly with Tower of Power and for the past 20 years with the great Etta James, is a strong presence on the album both on keyboards and as an arranger. His most impressive work is on the B3 organ on the Afro-Cuban “El Abogado” and the R&B/Funk “You Guys Done Yet?”. Joe Cohen’s tenor saxophone takes center stage on “Moon Over Gate 24” a slow instrumental that is often melodic but occasionally jagged with allusions to the fusion style of Weather Report. There are two featured vocalists: Claudia Villela who has a limited role on the Brazilian ballad “Benito” and the powerful presence of Larry Braggs (Tower of Power) on “You Guys Done Yet?”.
This is the most memorable track on the CD for a number of reasons: Bragg’s energetic performance and rousing chatter, the funky R&B groove, the harmony background vocals and the horn arrangement by Mr. Matthews. Ray Obiedo, guitarist with Sheila E (who sings background vocals on “El Abogado”) is the recording engineer and does mixing and digital editing as well as fine guitar work most notably on “You Guys Done Yet?”.
The VW Brothers have not only mustered an imposing group of collaborators for their first CD, but have also produced an impressive collection of mostly original material. Muziek is a trove of interesting sounds, performances and artists that deserve repeated listening.
Moon Over Gate 24, El Abogado, You Guys Done Yet?
March 9, 2010