The Westerlies – Wherein Lies the Good – Westerlies Records

by | Jan 16, 2021 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

The Westerlies – Wherein Lies the Good – Westerlies Records #WST001 – 64:46 – ****1/2

(Riley Mulherkar – trumpet; Chloe Rowlands – trumpet; Andy Clausen – trombone; Willem De Koch – trombone)

The Westerlies are a genre bending brass quartet, made up of two trumpets and two trombones. They cross many musical boundaries, and bring a consistent blend of improvisation, with a warm harmonic blend that elicits both comfort, and an inquisitive imagination. They fit right in with lovers of Americana music, covering spiritual, folk, jazz improvisation, and ventures into classical chamber themes. Their diversity has attracted other adventurous musicians such as Dave Douglas, Theo Bleckmann, Fleet Foxes, and Common to request their backing on their projects.

The Westerlies third solo project CD, released last year, is a heady mix of originals, spirituals, and group reinterpretations of some of their favorite artists and influences. The quartet added a replacement trumpeter, Chloe Rowlands, last year as Zubin Hensler left the group. Each member contributes at least one new composition on this release.

The opening track, “Robert Henry” was written for trombonist Andy Clausen’s nephew. Its use of layering over a repetitive theme brings out the full range of timbres of the horns. The trombones’ lower register almost serves as a bass accompaniment. Mid track there are some dissonant effects added, as well as counterpoint, and call and response. “In the Mornin’” is a traditional adapted from Charles Ives. It has a spiritual vibe that takes you into a sunlit Southern church on a Spring morning.

“Weeping Mary” is a shape note hymn from the 19thcentury. Its emotion brings on a longing for a full vocal chorus. The title track follows, and is a highlight of the CD. Written for solo piano by Robin Holcomb, the group provides a new orchestration for brass, that covers so much ground. From ballads to rural barn dances, you experience somberness, elation, with an Americana influence. I heard a bit of the influence of Aaron Copland’s “Hoedown,” as well as jigs, and classical chamber influences. It’s very special.

The Westerlies include five tracks from The Golden Gate Quartet’s early recordings from 1937-38. All tracks except one, do not exceed two minutes. They bring you back to the Swing era. The Golden Gate Quartet specialized in a unique blend of barber shop quartet meets scat singing. Their infectious growls are brought out by the Westerlies’ trombones.

Judee Sill’s “The Kiss” is given an appropriate sublime beauty, and it honors the struggles and heartaches that Sill experienced in her brief life. “Laurie” was written by new member, Rowlands, to honor Laurie Frink, the noted jazz trumpeter and educator, Laurie Frink, who passed away in the last few years. It is a cathartic exploration of loss and grief.

“Eli” by Arthur Russell follows. Its gut bucket feel is a combination of beauty and ferocity with bluster. Next is “Chickendog and Woodylocks,” a playful tune written by Willem De Koch. It is a love letter to his grandmother, who told him stories about two childhood characters whose adventures were as unpredictable as De Koch’s tune.

Charles Ives’ “Memories” has two parts, with dramatic changes, full of unexpected surprises. The closing tracks, “Entropy” is in three parts. The original fanfare by Riley Mulherkar, is expanded into a more disquieting direction, followed by a return to a plea for beauty and sanity. It’s an appropriate theme for the chaos and disorder we currently face, both in politics, and with our pandemic.

Fans of brass music with distinctly Americana influences will find a lot to like here. I found this CD both refreshing and exhilarating.

Robert Henry
In the Mornin’
Weeping Mary
Wherein Lies the Good
Golden Gate Gospel Train
Travelin’ Shoes
Remember Me
Born Ten Thousand Years Ago
Do Unto Others
The Kiss
From the Very First Time
Chickendog and Woodylocks
Entropy: Parts 1-3

—Jeff Krow

For more information, visit The Westerlies website:

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