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Drummer/composer Chad Wackerman has worked for artists such as Frank Zappa, Allan Holdsworth, Steve Vai, John Patitucci, Barbra Streisand and James Taylor. This CD is a release of 10 original compositions featuring his Australian band.
Chad Wackerman : drums and percussion
James Muller: guitar
Leon Gaer : bass
Daryl Pratt : vibraphone, marimba and synths
The group has a unique sound, not only due to the strong personalities of the musicians, but also by the nature of the instrumentation. By using electric guitar and vibraphone (which vibist Daryl Pratt triggers synthesiser sounds from), the group has a very strong sonic identity. Vibraphone is traditionally used in older style jazz, but Chad's group incorporates it in an edgy modern setting. It blends beautifully James Muller's guitar, and adding synthesisers to the vibes makes the sonic possibilities endless.
All the compositions are quite strict as far as the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic structures are concerned. The melodic sections are fixed, much like classical music. It¹s the solo sections where the musicians have the ability to be creative and spontaneous, to take the music somewhere surprising. The band improvises at a very high level and it is the chemistry between these players which adds to the excitement of the CD.
The recording is also interesting because of the drum and percussion pieces, which are placed between longer band compositions. Wackerman says "I think it's so important to use contrast in music. On Legs Eleven, I chose to place percussion pieces in between some of the tunes. It really clears the air a bit and gives your ears something rhythmic to grab onto. I also think this frames the melodic tunes in a way that is quite unique".
When asked how Chad composes music he replies, "I write using a keyboard and I use my computer, but only as a tool. Once I have the chords and melody I can easily experiment with voicings or try new bass notes under the chords. When I¹m happy with the way the music is sounding I write out the charts for the musicians. Some of this music we have been performing for a while in our live shows, but about 75 per cent of the music is brand new".
Legs Eleven was recorded and produced entirely in Sydney, and Chad believes this had an impact on the project. "It's very hard for me to separate the music I play with the way I feel and my surroundings - especially music that has improvisational elements in it. My experiences and influences naturally creep in. I'm originally from Southern California, but I've lived in Sydney for the past ten years, so it has had an effect on the way I write. I've even named some of the pieces after places in Sydney, such as Newtown and Field of Mars. The tunes Tangara and Sophies Beach also have strong connections to Sydney."
Chad also considers his musicians when composing. "I remember Frank Zappa saying that if you have someone in the band who can do something special, you'd be crazy not to utilize it in the show. The musicians in this group are quite amazing and I try to incorporate what they do into my music. This also gives the pieces more of a signature and personal character".
Wackerman feels that this CD differs from his last effort, Scream. "The band has played together for seven years now, so there is a greater understanding of each other musically. Some of the music on Legs Eleven has more of a groove throughout, and there are some tunes that take on a darker quality. I overdubbed quite a lot of percussion colors and also wrote for marimba in some of the tunes, which gives the album a new flavor".
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