A phenomenally skilled jazz and rock drummer, Wackerman’s professional career began in 1978 with the Bill Watrous band. He’s since accumulated an impressive resume, including a seven-year association with Frank Zappa, with whom he toured the USA and Europe and recorded 26 albums, which speaks volumes about Wackerman’s musical talents. Wackerman also recorded six albums and toured with guitar legend Allan Holdsworth, even penning some of the compositions on his recordings.
On Legs Eleven, Wackerman’s fourth solo CD, one can readily hear Holdsworth’s influence on Wackerman’s own tunes – particularly through the highly impressive guitar playing – not to mention timbres – of guitarist James Muller. Like The Unknown John Clark who once replaced Holdsworth on Bill Bruford’s USA tour, Muller is a straight-A student of things-that-go-Holdsworthian-in-the-night. His contributions to the album’s success are significant. Wackerman also enlists the assistance of bassist Leon Gaer and vibraphonist/marimba & synth player Daryl Pratt. During some tracks, Wackerman has penned melodies where the guitar and mallet percussion double each other, which proves to be a great juxtaposition of contrasting textures.
Many of Wackerman’s compositions are somewhat mid-tempo, so for those expecting the entire album to be full of non-stop bluster, it may come as a surprise, if not even a disappointment. Careful listening, however, proves that there’s still much going on with each tune. Periodically Wackerman teases the listener, as on the track No Time Like the Future, which starts off with Wackerman rolling atop his drumset, building intensity and evolving into a highly syncopated groove. Suddenly, you’re in a ballad, with shimmering cymbals and the vibraphone etching out a haunting melody. The respite is brief; out of the calm storms a snarling C section punctuated by Muller’s electrifying guitar work, Wackerman’s infamous drumming and angular chord changes. The song epitomizes what dazzling jazz/rock fusion is all about. Like Bill Bruford, Wackerman proves that the drummer-as-composer is a formidable force with which to be reckoned.