Johannes Wallmann (p, dir), Rob DZ (spoken), Russ Johnson (tp), Dennis Mitcheltree (ts), Dayna Stephens (bs), Kenny Reichert (g), John Christensen (b), Devin Drobka (d), Sharon Clark, Jan Wheaton, Keith Borden (vcl)
Bar code: 8427328435383
"Wallmann, 43, in March released one of the most interesting and accomplished jazz albums to come out in recent years. Credit the disc’s “nouveau-electronic big band” sound or its political messaging around same-sex marriage, but either way Love Wins has taken the uniquely American art form to the next step of its creative journey."
"Our first Best Albums of 2018 (So Far) recipient was a labor of love that combined sharp arrangements, stellar piano playing by Johannes Wallmann and compositions that feature both contemporary jazz and elements of hip-hop written with Bob Dz. Together, they tell the story of the march towards justice regarding marriage equality. Wallmann pulls no punches, yet the album is always engagingly moving. Check out the songs “Stonewall Was a Riot” and “Equality” for a taste of something special."
Preston Frazier (July 9, 2018)
"Wallmann, teaming up with spoken word artist Rob Dz, traces and celebrates [...] struggle and triumph. Adopting a broader stance not limited to marriage equality, he addresses history, civil liberties on the whole, and societal issues stretching across a large canvas. In the strutting, NOLA-inflected "Equality!" opener, for example, Dz cites or references both the Stonewall Inn and Rosa Parks' seated stand before launching into an exploration of equality's meaning. Then, after instrumental rubato ruminations on "Preamble," Dz homes in on the topic at hand during the oft-vamping, comfortably-paced title track. The voices of various soloists—Wallmann, trumpeter Russ Johnson, guitarist Kenny Reichert, and tenor saxophonist Dennis Mitcheltree, to mention a few—are artfully worked into the numbers on this album, serving the story itself and the art in the storytelling. Nobody grandstands; everybody understands the purpose of this music. As the album moves forward, so too does love itself. "We (Reach For) Love" carries a sense of determination within its resolute feel; "The Seventh Circuit," lacing a foreboding rock atmosphere with audio clips from Wisconsin's failed last-ditch appeal to the titular court, paints part of the struggle in its journey; "Can I Know (More Love)" is a calm call and plea, gently expressing a strong desire to see things righted; and "We (Will) Love" carries hope in its heart. Love's quest and Wallman's win are inextricably linked in this music, but there's a universality to be found in this most personal of projects. The battle for truth, justice, and fairness, touching nearly everybody in some way, is never over, and Wallmann reminds us that we shall overcome."
Dan Bilawsky (June 19, 2018)
"Wallmann sounds like he was inspired by Gil Scott Heron but this reality based recording was inspired by his move to Wisconsin to head the UW jazz program but being denied the right to have his same sex marriage recognized by the state which led him to the ACLU's door who took this to the Supreme Court. Whew. All that and there's a bunch of good blowing in the bytes. Topsy turvy music for times that seem to be offering nothing but strong headwinds, this is clearly jazz you can make a statement with."
Chris Spector (March 30, 2018)
"Wallmann looks like a cheerful cove. Posing on your own album cover holding a toy piano suggests you don’t see yourself as Bill Evans, or Glenn Gould. But it would be a mistake to miss the seriousness of the pianist’s message here, which is a passionate call not this time for racial equality but for equal recognition for same-sex marriage. It’s dedicated to his husband of 10 years, partner of 19. They moved together from Canada to Wisconsin and have now bumped up against some strikingly illiberal legislation on the subject; The Seventh Circuit contains audio from an appeal court hearing, part of the bumpy road toward recognition that government strictures on same-sex marriage violate the 14th Amendment.
There’s a lot of spoken-word material from Rob Franklin, which is neither questionable nor revelatory, and too many soul-diva interjections on the subject of “L-O-V-E”, but the astonishing thing is that none of it detracts from the sheer, pungent musicality of Wallmann and his group. He doesn’t play at piano, let alone a toy one. His most prominent feature, on Can I Know (More Love), is classically direct. The arrangements are dark, determined stuff, especially on We (Reach For) Love, where Johnson delivers a terse, almost angry trumpet solo, almost a legal judgement, while Stephens finds a new, clarion voice on the EWI. However those bracketed titles are intended (and such things are almost a soul/pop cliché), they hint that within the seemingly generic emotion there is struggle, pain and intellectual necessity, as well as riotous joy: look at that Stonewall title - it means everything you think it does.
Wallmann makes a septet sound like something much larger, as big as his subject, maybe. Love Wins is as musically challenging as it is socially, and deserves to be heard on both counts."
Jazz Journal (February, 2017)
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