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July/August 2004

DJ Wally
Nothing Stays the Same

DJ Wally made his name creating whimsical downtempo funk and drum 'n' bass speckled with absurd and ominous samples. He may be the only producer to have used Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock" in a track ("Smoke," off 2001's The Creepy Crawlies). It also takes melon-sized balls to sample Simon & Garfunkel's "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)." However, on Nothing Stays the Same, DJ Wally (Keef Destefano) tones down the wackiness and gets deep with Blue Series curator Matthew Shipp's versatile ringers.

Wally's knack for ass-shaking funk remains intact, but with drummer Guillermo E. Brown, bassist William Parker and vibraphonist Khan Jamal behind him, he can rely more on finesse than oddball samples (though some of those pop up, too). Wally has the good sense to bathe Peter Gordon's acoustic and electric flutes in reverb on several tracks, and the effect induces shivers (I'm a sucker for flutes and reverb in general, and Gordon's motifs throughout Nothing never fail to enchant).

Much of this album basks in the seductive aura of early-'70s blaxploitation film soundtracks, scores to TV cop-show chase scenes and timeless noir atmospheres, the last conjured by Jamal's deft, quicksilver vibe runs and David S. Ware's expressive sax arabesques. Throughout the disc, the players maintain a pleasing balance between mellowness and tension, though things get disorientingly psychedelic on "Paint by Number" and "A-Plus." On the latter, Jamal's vibes and Shipp's piano engage in a cryptic, sotto-voce dialog while an analog synth fritzes and blips into the void. The song makes you feel like you're riding malfunctioning carnival rides on dubious LSD; it goes nowhere, but sometimes nowhere is more interesting than somewhere. This is not your father's jazz, but rather your eccentric uncle's.

Originally published in July/August 2004
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