CD Review | Johannes Wallmann's "Love Wins'" by Alex W. Rodriguez
Inspired by his participation as a co-plaintiff in the 2014 civil rights lawsuit Wolf v Walker that declared Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, pianist Johannes Wallmann gathers ten of his musical compatriots on this suite of original compositions that celebrate the landmark victory for LGBTQI tolerance. Stretching over ten tracks, the suite traces an arc with the fifth piece, “The Seventh Circuit,” at the center. Set over an angsty rock groove, Wallmann scores the ensemble alongside recorded audio from the case’s oral arguments, focusing on the defense’s specious claims and their dismissal by prosecutors. Unfortunately, the mix makes it difficult to hear the content of recordings—a missed opportunity for the underscoring to highlight the dramatic courtroom tension.
The pieces were written in collaboration with Madison-based spoken word artist Rob Dz, whose voice and plainspoken narrative style gesture towards the Marsalis family’s collaborations with voice actor Wendell Pierce. Indeed, much of the album is in conversation with the Marsalis family’s down-home affectations, especially notable on “Go On.” Although the saccharine vision of “love” presented through the lyrics—for example, “Love is so amazing, it’s a celebration,” in the refrain to “We (Will) Love”—rings rather hollow in these times of urgent moral crisis, there is plenty of excellent music-making to listen for underneath. Wallmann’s McCoy-Tyner inspired solo on “Stonewall Was A Riot” is energetic and virtuosic; his solo piano outro, “Coda,” is gorgeous. Dayna Stephens also makes memorable cameos on baritone saxophone and EWI.