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Straight Ahead by Tim Wallace Rick Vandivier

There is an interesting story behind this recording that should give any musician, amateur or professional, food for thought. Flutist Tim Wallace and guitarist Rick Vandivier are both experienced, busy musicians in the San Francisco Bay Area; The Tim Wallace Band has played thousands of receptions in the Bay Area while Vandivier is active in a number of settings including his duo-Primary Colors with vocalist Nate Pruitt. From time to time, however, in the late nineties, the two of them came together as a duo for the pure enjoyment of playing, and somewhere along the way recorded a couple of dozen selections on a DAT machine with a routine Shure mike. Several years later, Wallace went through the tapes and found nine items he liked well enough to put together on CD and distribute just to "family and friends." Well, Paul Horn made Inside the Taj Mahal for family and friends but it has since sold over a million copies. I'm not suggesting that Straight Ahead will succeed on quite that level, but I'm glad that Wallace and Vandivier's friends encouraged them to distribute the CD more widely, as it is a welcome addition to the flute/guitar duo discography.

Duo performance requires a special set of skills. Often mandated by economic considerations, carrying a jazz performance without a rhythm section makes considerable demands upon the pianist or, as in this case, the guitarist. Vandivier is up to the task. His studies with Pat Metheny, Mick Goodrick and John Abercrombie have given him some strong jazz chops, but I suspect that the time he spent with Tuck Andress of Tuck and Patty ( is what prepared him for duo work, as it requires an ability with finger-style playing to provide both bass lines and chords behind the soloist. Then, when called upon for a solo, the guitarist has to work without any support. Joe Beck, in his duo with Ali Ryerson ( which sets the standard for this kind of ensemble, keeps his solo passages brief and focuses mainly on the ensemble sound. Vandivier largely follows this model, soloing effectively but briefly, then returning to his support of the flutist.

To focus on the guitar work is to recognize what holds such a duo together. At the same time, it is the front man who grabs the attention. (Offense sells tickets-defense wins Super Bowls. Same concept!) Wallace fulfills his role splendidly. He has a good, well centered, flute sound and clear, imaginative ideas as an improvisor, without being overly adventurous harmonically. The two players listen to each other and move effectively through a nicely varied program, alternating originals, free improvisations, and some carefully chosen standards. My personal favorites, both heard too infrequently, Poinciana and Benny Golson's lovely Whisper Not.

The moral of this story, for musicians, is simple: buy a mini-disk recorder and a stereo microphone and record everything you do. Hearing yourself perform is extremely valuable as you develop and, who knows, maybe you'll find yourself with a CD on your hands.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Tim Wallace Rick Vandivier
  • CD Title: Straight Ahead
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: TWB Music
  • Tracks: My Funny Valentine, Friday Afternoon Blues, Suite (2nd Movement), Poinciana, Improv (One), Court Strut, Whisper Not, Improv (Two), Waiting For Angela
  • Musicians: Tim Wallace, flute; Rick Vandivier, guitar
  • Rating: Three Stars
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