The band thrilled a packed Plaza audience July 13 at a 2010 Santa Fe Bandstand show that was also the kickoff concert for the 5th Annual New Mexico Jazz Festival. Combining n jazz with elements of prog rock and even ska, the six-piece Dave Wayne’s The Things That Are Heard is long on interesting musical ideas.
Most of the time, jazz noodling or hippie-esque jamming makes me want to puke my guts out, but this was one of those rare occasions when a band jams out and still sounds great. This is the sort of music one feels, long before one gets the urge to compare it to anything else. Dave Wayne’s The Things That Are Heard plays instrumental tunes, which in general bore me, but does so in a way that rarely repeats musical parts. Each direction the music took was unexpected, and each song was better than the last.
Drummer Dave Wayne is clearly the focus of the band. It was obvious that Wayne is a studied and serious jazz drummer. I’d seen Wayne perform with post-punk trio Venus Bogardus at the SFR Downtown Summer Block Party, so I was semi-aware of his chops.
However, it wasn’t until I saw this band that I realized how progressive and intricate his drum work could be. The time signatures were all over the map, yet Wayne played with fluidity and ease.
Guitarist Sean Buckley played what sounded like traditional jazz guitar a la Charlie Christian, but his fingers moved with the precision and speed of Django Reinhardt. Ross Hamlin (of Little Wing fame) added some rock flair to the mix. Along the lines of bands like Primus, Hamlin’s off-kilter and off-key fret work created the bulk of the band’s prog-rock sound. The horn line consisted of Mark Weaver on trombone and Dan Pearlman on the cornet, an instrument similar to the trumpet but with a mellower tone. Weaver and Pearlman clicked perfectly to create some of the more memorable song phrasing. People love a band with horns; it always gets those crowds dancing. Percussionist Elliot Ryan and bassist Casey Andersen didn’t especially stand out but, with everything else going on, they didn’t need to.
I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that improv is a major part of the band’s process because, when bands put together odd parts and don’t often revisit them, it’s a difficult feat to remember what they are supposed to be playing. Wayne informed the crowd several times that every song was an original composition, written by the members.
Thanks to countless restaurants, malls and elevators that insist on playing smooth jazz, it’s easy to forget that jazz, too, can rock. While names like Louis Armstrong and John Coltrane are always on the forefront of people’s minds when they think of jazz (and why not? Both are totally killer), plenty of incredible musicians have taken jazz to unpredictable and strange places. Artists like Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock stayed true to the roots of the music, but deconstructed preconceived notions through experimentation and relentless growth.
As such, Dave Wayne’s The Things That Are Heard is in good company, but is still in a league of its own. Keep an eye out for a to-be-announced August concert because this band will doubtlessly grow to become one of the more important local acts we’ve got.
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