Walt Wagner’s Reworks – an album of renditions popularized by the likes of Band of Horses, DJ Shadow, My Bloody Valentine, Prince, Fleet Foxes, Phoenix, and more – is available now on CD / LP / DL worldwide from Sub Pop. The veteran pianist recorded the songs live on October 9th, 2016 at the famed Canlis Restaurant in Seattle, Washington [purchase here].
Charles Darwin said it best: adapt or die. Okay, maybe that’s not an exact quote, but the great English scientist was definitely on to something. Organisms that respond over time to the ever-changing environment are more likely to survive and thrive.
While you may not find this crazy idea in Junior’s textbooks these days, it’s audible in every facet of Walt Wagner’s Reworks. With its distinctive renditions of songs popularized by DJ Shadow, My Bloody Valentine, Fleet Foxes, and more, this live recording of the beloved pianist’s farewell performance shows how three Seattle institutions – Wagner, Canlis restaurant, and Sub Pop Records – have evolved over the years.
When veteran pianist Wagner first landed at Canlis in 1996, the Emerald City’s premiere destination for fine dining was in the midst of significant changes: a new chef, new uniforms, modifications to its iconic building overlooking Lake Union. That required a fresh approach to dinner music, too. “I knew what the status quo was, but the owners wanted new energy,” recalls Wagner.
Although he started out with a set heavy on the Great American Songbook and the occasional pop tune, that gradually gave way to more adaptations of modern fare. “Increasingly I kept working in more new, edgier music. In the beginning my sets were 90 percent standards. In the last few years, I was mostly playing very contemporary music.”
As young staff members recommended new artists and songs, Wagner’s repertoire grew deeper and more varied – especially after the next generation of the Canlis family took over in 2003. Yet whether the source material was Pink Floyd, Prince, Metallica, or the Weeknd, the challenge remained the same: “To distill the vibe on a record, the very essence of a song, into solo piano playing.” Performances as memorable yet tasteful as the cuisine, interiors, and views of Canlis [read more at Sub Pop].
1. Building Steam With a Grain of Salt (DJ Shadow)
2. I Only Said (My Bloody Valentine)
3. Desiree (The Left Banke)
4. Mykonos (Fleet Foxes)
5. 1901 (Phoenix)
6. Bondye (Goat)
7. No One’s Gonna Love You (Band of Horses)
8. Purple Rain (Prince)
9. The Funeral (Band of Horses)
10. Ever Fallen In Love (Buzzcocks)