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I Hear Sparks: VW Brothers – Muziek

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Paul and Marc van Wageningen may seem unlikely choices to play through a blend of funk, jazz, Brazilian, and Afro-Cuban music, but Muziek proves that these Amsterdam brothers are well within their element.

Drummer Paul and bassist Marc make for more than a standard foundational pairing, as their contributions to these 11 tracks is imaginative and assured. More than just providing a backing rhythm for the other players, the VW Brothers make Muziek all their own with poised playing and inspired passages of soul and funk.

There are eight original compositions on the record, arranged by Marc, and a loving set of standards that help prove the breadth of the players. Featuring trombonist Wayne Wallace, keyboardist Dave K. Mathews, guitarist Ray Obiedo, and percussionist Michael Spiro, Muziek offers up exceptional flavours and colours.

After a prelude to “Euro,” the record gets underway with “Simone.” Written by Marc van Wageningen, the funky little piece features saxophonist Joe Cohen.

Marc’s other compositions explore various styles of music with style and an open mind. The soulful strut of “Moon over Gate 24” feels like a dark red nightclub in the middle of the night with Mathews’ keyboard punctuations and sensual, breathy Cohen sax. And “Cecilia’s Song” is a remarkable piano-led ballad underlined by some delicate percussion and beautiful work from Mathews.

The VW Brothers were raised in Holland and studied at the Amsterdam Conservatory of Music. Paul was the first to head to the United States, as he moved to New York in 1976 to get in on the American jazz scene. After relocating to the San Francisco Bay area, Marc joined him and they began to unleash their style of fun, funky jazz on the music scene there.

The VW Brothers reveal their cheeky side with “You Guys Done Yet?” The track is a risky bit of East Bay funk that features vocalist Larry Braggs doing his best James Brown impression. The horn section, lead by Wallace, adds a swanky Las Vegas Strip feel.

The group’s take on Miles Davis’ “Milestones” is an interesting bit of Afro-Cuban glee that reinvents the tune while staying faithful to the original.

Muziek is a vibrant album that epitomizes the musical range studied and practiced merrily by the VW Brothers. Brimming with funky colour and arresting courage, this is a debut record of broad appeal.

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