July/August 2005

Doug Wamble
Marsalis Music

Terms like "eclectic" sell Doug Wamble short. His sophomore release, with pianist Roy Dunlap, bassist Jeff Hanley and drummer Peter Miles, is a 21st-century drama with gospel, blues, Americana, neosoul, bop and modal characters strutting across the stage. In his liner notes, fellow guitarist-vocalist Matt Munisteri pinpoints the singularity of Wamble's art as well as anyone could hope to, but let me remark on a few vibrant qualities: the rootsy purity of Wamble's guitar tone; the advanced content of his improvised lines; and the winsome drawl of his singing voice, but also its haunting, preacherly power.
There are unpredictable contours in Wamble's original tunes, particularly "If I Live to See the Day," "The Homewrecker Hump" and "No More Shrubs in Casablanca"; and the imagination revealed by his covers, including Peter Gabriel's "Washing of the Water," Stevie Wonder's "Have a Talk With God" and the spiritual "Rockin' Jerusalem." Producer Branford Marsalis joins the group to play tenor sax on "Jerusalem," a bristling extended jam, to which Wamble adds lyrics about the "Hebrew," Christian and Muslim children with intertwined destinies in that beleaguered city. It's a stirring example of music's visionary power, and also of Wamble's ability to clamber across the rigid boundary we've erected between vocal and instrumental jazz.

Heather Blanton

Doug Wamble

Originally published in July/August 2005

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