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Muziek by VW Brothers

Since arriving in the US a couple of decades ago, the Netherlands born-and-bred VW (van Wageningen) Brothers, drummer Paul and bassist Marc, have become two of the Bay Area's most respected and prolific session musicians. Their work can be heard on recordings by bands and artists such as Tower of Power, Henry Kaiser, George Duke, Jan Akkerman, Paul Winter, Sheila E. and Stan Getz, to name a few. For "Muziek," their debut CD, the VW Brothers have wisely chosen to work with a cohesive and stable band consisting of keyboardist David K. Matthews (...not the singer!), percussionist Michael Spiro, saxophonist Joe Cohen and guitarist Ray Obiedo. These guys have obviously played together quite a bit and this gives the music a looser, more relaxed and less-produced feel, one that could easily be replicated in a live setting.

Though they tackle a couple of jazz standards ("Milestones" and Michel Legrand's "What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life?"), and a Tower Of Power-inspired funk jam ("You Guys Done Yet?") Muziek consists primarily of the sort of polished, relatively accessible, skillful jazz-rock fusion I associate with bands and artists such as Weather Report, Dave Weckl and Chick Corea's Elektrik Band. Both brothers are highly proficient latin players and pretty much all of the tunes here also have strong latin-jazz affinities. The original tunes, all composed by bassist Marc van Wageningen, vary from the complex and multi-sectioned ("Simone," "El Abogado," "Zapatos de Madera") to the relatively straightforward and very mellow ("Cecilia's Song," "Benito").

The Weather Report-influenced "Simone" has a wonderfully convoluted, Jaco-esque lead bass line, doubled in a most appealing fashion by Harvey Wainapel's bass clarinet, before it opens up into a driving jam for piano and saxophone solos. "Moon Over Gate 24," by contrast, is a sweet slow-burn with Matthews' chiming vintage Rhodes and Hammond B-3 sounds setting the stage for Cohen's smoky Brecker-esque tenor. "You Guys Done Yet?" is a humorous, sassy nod to the great funk band Tower of Power (with whom both VW Brothers have been touring and recording for a few years), featuring current ToP lead vocalist Larry Braggs.

The band really hits its stride on the latin-jazz pieces. "El Abogado" starts off with some intense folkloric Afro-Cuban drumming and chanting before breaking off into a breezy fusion groove. Matthews' Hammond B-3 solo is the highlight here. Similarly, "Zapatos de Madera" successfully merges fusion and Latin influences, albeit in a more acoustic setting. Cohen and Paul van Wageningen are the featured soloists here and they do not disappoint. The two standards showcase the VW Brothers' inventiveness as arrangers. "Milestones" is a remarkable reworking of the Miles Davis tune into an odd-metered Afro-Cuban jam and the Legrand tune becomes a funky late-night lament that never quite lapses into the saccharine sentimentality I expected.

The rest of the CD consists of considerably less-challenging material, most of which basically falls into the smooth jazz category. Despite the inspired addition of Toninho Ferraguti's bandoneon, the classically-influenced "Euro" sounds a little like a movie soundtrack, while both "Cecilia's Song" and "Benito" are pretty much straight-up smooth jazz with some mildly interesting Brazilian and funk elements.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: VW Brothers
  • CD Title: Muziek
  • Genre: Fusion
  • Year Released: 2010
  • Record Label: Patois Records
  • Tracks: Euro (prelude), Simone, Milestones, Moon Over Gate 24, Zapatos de Madera, Benito, El Abogado, You Guys Done Yet?, What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life?, Cecilias Song
  • Musicians: Euro'
  • Rating: Three Stars
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