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12/01/11

Tim Hagans
The Moon is Waiting
Palmetto Records

In the highly illuminating liner notes that accompany The Moon Is Waiting, Tim Hagans explains that he welcomes a feeling of insecurity when he’s playing: He wants to feel as if he’s in a car that might, at any moment, go off the road and smack into a tree. That sense of total abandon, the trumpeter says, is the kind of “danger I like, rather than playing with people who are serving it up to each other in a comfortable way.” In guitarist Vic Juris, bassist Rufus Reid and especially powerhouse drummer Jukkis Uotila, Hagans has assembled a team that continually understands and courts such risk.

The first moment when that becomes patently obvious is in the title track, the second tune on the album. Hagans is already engaged in a freewheeling solo when, just past the midway point, Juris emits a quick, disquieting boing! that sets Hagans off. The unearthly trumpet fury that follows only lasts a half-minute but it is startling, volleying left to right, accelerating frantically and frenziedly before subsiding—that car hitting an ice patch on a winding downhill road.

Not all of The Moon Is Waiting is quite that thrilling—the heart couldn’t take it—but the sense of what Hagans calls “forward motion” in those same liners is never far from the surface. Juris’ opening solo guitar on “Boo” is Delta blues psychedelicized, an unanticipated but fitting lead-in to the wild, Bitches Brew-esque jam that emerges from it. And the closing, 11-minute “Things That Happen in a Convertible,” with its wide-open spaces and shifting moods, mainly serves as a framework for a stunningly rendered, skillfully structured Reid solo.

Lest all of this sound like an exercise in randomness and anarchy, it’s nothing of the sort. Hagans has put in many years with big bands and values discipline. There’s method to his madness, but it’s a scrumptious madness nonetheless.

Originally published in November 2011
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