Fred Thomas turns his fertile mind to the music of Richard Wagner, ahead of the launch of a new album on Babel. He himself plays bass and includes clarinettist and saxophonist Ewan Bleach, known from many of our Gypsy/East European nights. The pianist will be French maestro, Benoît Delbecq.
‘Dick-Wag: a Tribute to Richard Wagner’ is a new jazz trio dedicated to a notorious Bavarian composer many idolise and more despise. 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 profane yet respectful interpretations of Wagner’s sublime, bombastic, time-stopping, sexually suggestive and earth-shatteringly beautiful creations by assembling a seemingly dysfunctional trio of motley talents. The recording includes Benoît Delbecq who can miraculously synthesise with Ewan Bleach’s unparalleled sense of melody and tone, glued together by Fred Thomas’ foundational bass playing. Silly and serious in equal measure, ’Dick Wag’ serves up mercilessly blooded 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.