Wind Walker Orchestra Hazel
Published Feb 14, 2019American East coast ensemble Wind Walker Orchestra invigorates their spry big band jazz with an interesting mix of contemporary influences. Band leader and bass clarinetist Drew Williams cites avant-garde film composer Jóhann Jóhannsson and Radiohead among his influences, and the album includes an appropriately quirky Tune-Yards cover.
Perhaps most fascinating though, is that that album is loosely conceived as an imagined score for the first volume of Brian K. Vaughn's brilliant, industry-shaking comic book series, Saga. The gritty family drama dressed as high-concept space opera provides a backbone of inspiration for these dynamic, propulsive pieces. That's perhaps one of the most apparent commonalities between both works — each is so smoothly composed that the experience flies by.
The songs of Hazel suggest that the influence of Saga is more a catalyzing agent for the grand music of this band's collective soul than an attempt to represent the feeling or headspace of specific characters, though "Backbone (The Wings)" absolutely does feel like early, hope-filled, utterly badass Alana in its sharp grandiosity.
Whether or not you have any connection to the source material, this is a lovingly composed album of contemporary jazz that goes down easy, but doesn't rattle any boundaries. (Ears & Eyes)