Thursday, April 30, 2009

His Name Is Wigald

Jet Set Jazz
Boning establishes a strong sense of mystery throughout -- as if his live horns, bass, piano, percussion and electronics are out to turn your weekend trip down the coast into a Hitchcock espionage thriller. Most of the compositions are mid-paced mood pieces, with wordless vocals and breathy reeds set against Latin bass and percussion.

A native of Wildeshausen, Germany, the multi-instrumentalist's career began with the jazz-punk outfit KIXX. But his second career as a comedic performer on a Saturday Night Live-type television show, plus his stated desire with Jet Set to recreate the music he heard on the radio as a child, gives a clear idea of what to expect. Italian cinema soundtracks of the 1960s and '70s, bossa nova, the more accessible West Coast jazz and early synthesizer exotica all pile into his memories.

A theatrical undercurrent of travel-weariness runs beneath most of the record. And given Boning's comedy background, it's easy to imagine his globe-trotting cast of characters putting limp, begloved wrists to their foreheads, overwhelmed by all the trans-continental fun their wealth and freedom allows.

But Boning's sense of humor and use of electronics sometimes works against him. The distorted speech in "Avalanche" feels weird, and the house track "Kobra Dance" crashes when the vocals come in, making it seem even more out of place among the other songs.

His best gag is the cover art, featuring Boning clad in top hat and tails flanked by two blonde stewardess types straight from the Matt Helm casting pool -- but all three are cardboard cut-outs.

Reference material: Anybody familiar with Piero Umiliani or Nicola Conte won't be disappointed with Wigald Boning.