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Danel Walzer: Essemce of Now
(Independent release, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 4/13/2022)
In the realm of contemporary electric instrumental music, there is a spectrum that runs from ethereal new age music, usually with spacey synthesizers, and at the other end, there is jazz-rock fusion music, which can be very electric and high energy. The two don’t come together very often or well, because of their fundamentally different approach. Recently we featured a couple of albums by Michael Whalen, which together bridged the gap, with one album an atmospheric recording, and the other in a rockier setting. This week we have another release that draws on both the contemplative side of New Age, and the electric facet of fusion. It’s by Daniel Walzer, and it’s called Essence of Now.
Daniel Walzer comes from an academic background. In addition to his own music, he has worked a sideman and producer for others. His day job is assistant professor of music at Indiana University-Perdue University in Indianapolis, where he teaches, and has also written numerous published academic papers on music and recording, and he was co-editor of a book on audio education. His musical training was as a percussionist, and that is evident on Essence of Now with Walzer heard on vibes, marimba and other tuned percussion, as well as keyboards and as composer of the material. He performs much of it himself via overdubbing, but is joined by a number of guests, including fusion bassist Adam Nitti, and also Aaron Jacobs on bass elsewhere on the album. Guitars are heard as performed by Douglas Dunlop, Toby Ellis and Dave Isaacs. Jay Reynolds is heard on drums on one track, with much of the percussion either played by Walzer or being synthesized.
The music is an interesting mixture of influences. One can hear echoes of the seminal fusion band Weather Report, as well as the old art rock group Gong, with its strong reliance on percussion. And with the occasionally quirky arrangements, with the presence of marimba, Frank Zappa can come to mind. The all-instrumental compositions tend to be riff based, rather than relying on strong melodic lines, and there are improvisational aspects apparent.
Opening one of the more New Age influenced pieces, Metalaqua with its more atmospheric sound, dominated by the tuned percussion sounds of Walzer. <<>>
The Weather Report influence can be heard on the next track Unity one of the pieces with guitar, in this case by Douglas Dunlop. <<>>
Also showing the fusion side of album is Stand Up, which features prominent bass work by Adam Nitti, with Walzer’s percussion also front and center. <<>>
One of the more interesting and stylistically eclectic tracks on the album is The Test which features the sound of a sitar, and as well as a cello, played by Aaron Fried. <<>>
Those who remember the band Gong, headed by the late French percussionist Pierre Moerlin, will probably be able to draw a parallel in sound to Walzer’s piece Thin Lips. It’s another creative bit of sonic eclecticism. <<>>
Marauder is a piece in two parts, first a New Agey piano solo <<>> followed by one of the more electric sounding segments on the album, featuring a kind of other-worldly sax solo by Jay Reynolds. The two parts seem a bit detached from each other. <<>>
Some of the Zappa influence can be felt on the track called Redemption with its prominent marimba and harmonic approach. <<>>
The composition called Nebraska tips a bit more toward the New Age side with its repeating structure recalling the minimalist style of Philip Glass. <<>>
The album ends with its weakest piece. Coming Home is a kind of New Agey segment of solo piano that goes on for far too long without with out a lot of thematic content. <<>>
Daniel Walzer’s new album Essence of Now is a creative recording of instrumental music that is fairly wide-ranging in its influences, running from ethereal new age-influenced to very electric jazz-rock fusion. It’s made more distinctive by the fact that Walzer is a percussionist, and he plays prominently various tuned percussion instruments like vibes, and marimba. The album has much to offer, but it’s a little spotty in its creativity. Some of the material is a little short of thematic or melodic content, but overall its variety is worthy of praise.
Our grade for sound quality is about an A-minus. With the abundance of electronic instruments, and the opportunities for creative sonic approaches to the acoustic percussion, the recording does not have much depth or width to the stereo image. It could have been a lot more sonically enveloping, as many new age influenced recordings can be.
If you’re looking for some instrumental music that’s got more energy to it than new age, then Daniel Walzer’s The Essence of Now can be just the trick.
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