Finding Space in the Noir: Chris Wallace’s Many Names, “Somewhere Sacred”

Chris Wallace's Many Names - Something Sacred

Since I’m still somewhat of a jazz neophyte (at least from the standpoint of listening it with a semi-critical ear), I can’t claim an authoritative voice as a tastemaker. As a music lover, though, I can certainly attempt to articulate the reasons why I like a particular album. I’ve found “Somewhere Sacred,” the latest project from drummer Chris Wallace’s Many Names group to be a terrifically listenable album, one that I’ve definitely enjoyed.

Because I’m writing this review in the car on the way home from one of our northern trips, I have the album on the stereo, and so I asked M how he would describe it: “a crime-and-suspense movie’s jazz soundtrack vibe to it – it conjures up memories of watching old psychological thrillers that relied on jazz scores to set the mood.” Clearly I’ve watched different movies in my time 🙂 but in thinking about this, he’s absolutely right – this album has a definite noir feel, while still retaining some hot jazz aspects.

As you would expect, terrific drumming and percussive elements permeate the music throughout, but Chris’ compatriots – Jeff King (saxophone), Adrean Farrugia (piano), and Daniel Fortin (bass) – have equal time to shine (and if anything, slightly overshadow their fearless leader with their musical derring-do). The concept of the drummer as the bandleader is a logical one, as the drummer has to set the tempo and keep things going, but it also means that the band members get the flashier roles than does the leader.

“A Memory of 10” starts the album off on a somewhat contemplative note, while “Chapter Zero” opens with a killer bass riff (from Daniel Fortin) and builds from a slow burn to a fiery flame. “Calling All Aspects” has a truly funky syncopated rhythm and provides an awesome showcase for saxophonist Jeff KIng; make sure you listen for the cool piano solo in the middle from Adrean Farrugia, which could be a piece all on its own (but doesn’t sound disconnected from the rest of the track).

“Somewhere Sacred” provides another turn for Daniel Fortin to shine with a really lovely solo midway through this gorgeous track; for me, this piece really evokes the sacred, creating a meditative space for the listener. “At It Again” is the shortest piece on the album – or perhaps it just feels that way with its swinging, danceable rhythm, providing a feeling of lightness.

“Many Roads” is perhaps the most intriguing composition on the album; as the title indicates, the piece seems to restart numerous times (I actually checked my player to see if it was malfunctioning at first). It is a really interesting musical depiction of how we sometimes have to start over again and again before finding the road (musical or otherwise) that we really want to take.

The album closes with “The Preston Changeling,” another showcase for Jeff King, but with plenty of virtuosic drumwork from Chris Wallace. I find that this piece reminds me of some of the first jazz I listened to as a teenager, music from Gerry Mulligan (who I’d discovered, believe it or not, via Barry Manilow); for me, at least, it evokes that era of jazz and puts me in mind of late nights in smoky clubs (which was not any part of my early jazz experience, for the record!).

This is an excellent album from a group of really talented musicians who work seamlessly together and have made some fabulous music here. If you want a bit of stylish noir in your day, perhaps a throwback to some old films, put this album on and crank it up.

~ L

2/20/2018 – CORRECTION: The title of this album is “Somewhere Sacred,” not “Something Sacred.”  Our apologies for the error!

Visit Chris Wallace’s website.

Preview and buy “Somewhere Sacred” on Bandcamp.

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