The word “collusion” might not be listed in the federal criminal code but that doesn’t mean that cooperation and collaboration are just “fake news.” While certain politicians might be trying to distance themselves from the word, a group of Colorado musicians — and a whole bunch of their musical friends — are plotting and scheming the best they can to be part of a grander musical conspiracy. And unlike the political arena, they’re not trying to keep it a secret.
While Collusion is a new project, the seeds for the group’s music was started more than 20 years ago. In 1997, pianist/vocalist Bryan Wagstaff — the head co-conspirator of Collusion —and his friends Reid Miller and Particle co-founder Darren Pujalet formed the band Jonas in Los Angeles. While the band found modest success touring up and down the coast, their real triumph was launching their own publishing company, Reason to Rhyme Music, and amassing a huge catalog of original songs that they not only played live but also published in film and TV.
Now, Wagstaff has dusted off that material, presented it to new players and has invited a dozen other Colorado musicians to add their style to it for the debut release City of Angels. “Literally each and every song was a living, breathing document with each of the artists enjoying a blank canvas to do what was most comfortable to lend their incredible talent set to this original music,” Wagstaff explained.
The resulting 13-track record, which is the first in what Wagstaff hopes to develop into a trilogy of releases, is a sophisticated modern rock soundtrack that combines his classical/jazz piano roots with the influences of his co-conspirators. Joined directly by Chris Wright on bass, vocals and percussion, The Sweet Lillie’s Melly Frances on vocals and acclaimed drummer Christian Teele, Collusion already comes across as a local dream team of sorts. But going beyond that core quartet, players from cellist Chloe Watkins to guitarists Matt Flaherty, Adam Schalke and Dave Hebert, violinist Brune Macary, and percussionist Jonny Jyemo, along with a slew of guest vocalists, round out the already outstanding cast, and give City of Angels a rich and textured foundation.
City of Angels comes across as a slick, well-produced, irreproachably played collection of songs that breathes new life into this material that Wagstaff found too good to shelve.
Fox Theatre | August 30