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Paul Wertico Trio - Another Side


The Vortex

Drummer-led bands are frequently units in which melody (and often subtlety) are sacrificed to the leader's need to demonstrate a fearsome technique and an easy familiarity with a plethora of rhythms. The Paul Wertico Trio, however, is a genuinely democratic outfit, weaving a unique group sound out of strikingly diverse elements: oblique blues, light (and occasionally heavy) funk, the odd excursion into so-called 'world' music and free-ish, spacy musings, all characterised by sensitive, thoughtful interaction. Guitarist John Moulder (who seems capable of switching between the almost dreamy, textural feel of Bill Frisell and the punchier bluesy style of, say, John Scofield at will) and bassist Brian Peters (who has a richly sensuous sound well served by Naim's 'True Stereo' approach) are poised and elegant throughout, yet almost raunchily powerful at times, and the album as a whole provides an object lesson in how to ring musical changes within the basic guitar-bass-drums format. Warmly recommended.


Drummer Paul Wertico is actively involved in numerous groups in Chicago and even more projects elsewhere. The simplest of his musical contexts, his trio with guitarist John Moulder and bassist Brian Peters, continues to be his most satisfying avenue of expression. This is only the second studio album for the trio, and it's a bit of a departure, both in its straightforward recording and production and in its sound, one less explosive and more exploratory than previously heard. Recorded in a Chicago church, using only two microphones in a direct unprocessed analog format, the music comes across with the immediate sound of a live trio. But while the album radiates a live jam freshness there is a commendable focus and brevity accompanying it. Except for Wertico's four drum and/or percussion intros, all the material was composed by the entire trio. Some of the most interesting music comes early in the session as the first 15 minutes or so evocatively weave together everything from the church organ opener, played by Peters, to some cosmic blues guitar by Moulder on "A Slow Stroll Round A Black Hole." The core of the opening segment comes with the segue of the atmospheric "Children Of The Night," a dark and moody, almost electronica piece, awash with cymbals and sustained guitar, and "Little Creatures," the most extended cut at just more than six minutes, which creatively coalesces around Peter's bass line. Material with more emphasis on dynamics is found in "Mideastern Standard Time," as Wertico whirls up a rhythmic dervish beneath and in front of Moulder's guitar. Short songs like the percussion-driven funk of "Sticks And Stones," which benefits from an excellent Wertico intro, and the straightforward romp of "O Man" have a more conventional guitar trio sound. - 3 Stars

Premier Jazz

This CD is entitled Another Side because that's exactly what Paul Wertico wanted to show...another side of both his trio's music and the way in which the disc was recorded. His previous trio CDs, were multi-tracked, heavily layered and recorded, and mixed over a period of several months. In contrast, Another Side was recorded live to 2-track in a day and a half with no mixing. Musically, the previous trio recordings had some very aggressive and sometimes dissonant moments that bordered on avant-garde jazz and rock. His goal for Another Side was to show a more even tempered version of the trio's music and to produce a CD that could be comfortably listened to all the way to the end without extreme emotional variations. Personally and artistically, he loves both approaches, and they're all part of who he is as a musician, band leader, recording artist and producer. Together, they also expose different sides of who he is as a human being and what he is trying to express through his trio's music. With this new release, he is hopeful that it will demonstrate the trio's broadening musical concept and is thrilled that the trio is now represented on CD in a way that really captures an additional aspect of what an audience could expect to hear from it live in concert.

Drummers that lead groups are quite rare. Here, Paul Wertico leads a trio. Paul Wertico on drums and percussion, John Moulder on guitar and Brian Peters on bass and on track 1 and 16 he plays organ. This rather nicely brings me onto where it was recorded live - as are most Naim CD's. It was recorded in St. Gregory the Great Church in Chicago, Illinois. While Naim often record in churches and chapels this one seems a lot larger. However, the acoustics are excellent and remember - for those reading one of these pieces for the first time - Naim use a technique called True Stereo where everything goes onto two tracks and by clever placement of the microphones there is no editing, in fact virtually a true live performance. There are 16 short tracks with only one track topping 6 minutes - track 3 "Little Creatures" - and two further tracks topping 4 minutes: track 4 "A Slow Stroll Round A Black Hole" and track 15 "Beauty & The Beholder". I suppose it sounds most like a film soundtrack - a very interesting trio sound - certainly the drums do not dominate. In fact, I would be hard pressed to say who was the leader out of the bass and guitar. Reading the sleeve notes make no mention of a film so I must assume that as yet this is a film soundtrack waiting for the film to be made for it. Perhaps my favourite track - probably the most melodic - is track 8 "Stick and Stones".

Louisville Music News

In addition to his work with Coryell and, previously, Pat Metheny, Paul Wertico is a leader and composer in his own right. He has two recent releases which stray off the beaten path, yet will be rewarding to those who listen with open ears. The Paul Wertico Trio: Another Side (NAIM CD 093; finds Wertico, longtime associate John Moulder on guitar and bassist/organist Brian Peters captured live in August, 2005, in Chicago's St. Gregory the Great Church. The opening "The Big Organ," is a somber prelude which leads into "Children of the Night," replete with spectral overtones. There are several percussion interludes throughout the album, which are not only intrinsically interesting, but often serve as bridges from one piece to the next. On the surface, this is a "guitar trio" CD, yet it is really more of a journey through atmospheres and musical evocations. The other new recording, Ampersand (Rat Howl RH0001), is credited to Brian Peters and Paul Wertico. It is, in a broad way of speaking, more like Another Side than any of Wertico's work with Coryell or Metheny. It is currently available through the websites of the artists, and It, too, is full of atmospheric explorations, often more in the nature of ambient music. The "liner notes" available on Peters' website are lengthy and provide much insight into the artist as well as his creation. If you expect and desire "jazz" or "fusion," you might best be advised to look elsewhere. If, however, such terms imply pigeonholes to you and you seek to explore innovative, label-less music, check out these recordings from Wertico and company.

HiFi.NL (Netherlands)

By far most jazz lovers will know Paul Wertico as the man who succeeded Danny Gottlieb as drummer of the Pat Metheny Group in 1983. With the band of the legendary jazz guitarist he won no less than seven Grammy Awards while also being involved in Pat's impressive solo project Secret Story. The percussion artist also has many more achievements to his name. In 1997 the readers of DRUM! magazine chose him as ’Fusion Drummer Of The Year'. Also in the years when he worked with Metheny he had his own projects, as well as recordings with New Age pioneer Paul Winter, jazz singer Kurt Elling, and rock-fusion violinist Jerry Goodman. His first disc as leader - on which wife Barbara Unger (keyboards) was one of the prominent guests - was released in 1993. Of his other combos, the Paul Wertico Trio is perhaps the most interesting. If only because of the way in which this trio, which nowadays consists alongside Paul Wertico, of guitarist John Moulder and bassist/organist Brian Peters, has revived the fusion as it were. The first albums, on which bassist Eric Hochberg can still be heard, show an energetic, vital political complexity with an intense, challenging, exciting, aggressive and innovative playing trio that is at its best when it gives full throttle. With the title of the new disc, Another Side, Paul Wertico wants to indicate that as a drummer he can also show another side. Very different from the avant-garde jazz and rock that characterizes the trio's play on the earlier discs, a more tempered version can be heard here. Not a floating drummer dominating the disc in a way that is ultimately of interest to fellow drummers, but a percussionist who supports the guitarist and bassist in collectively creating spontaneous, melodic own compositions. Of course, the peace and serenity is occasionally broken with short drum and percussion exercises, but these are beautifully aligned with the solo parts of the two other gentlemen and do not have an extreme character anywhere. The recording also differs from the previous one. This time no multi-track, multi-layered, over a period of months mixed studio recording released by a major record company. Instead, a two-day recording made live to two-track during a two-day session at St. Gregory the Great Church in Chicago, Illinois, released on the English audiophile Naim label. The natural recording and the beautiful acoustics of the recording room beautifully express the music and sound of the instruments.

JazzFlits.NL (Netherlands)

Drummer Paul Wertico knows more than one face. For many perhaps the most famous that as a former drummer of the Pat Metheny Group. But under his own name, it's the threesomes with which Wertico makes a name for it. The CD's in trio occupation (Don't Be Scared Anymore (2000) and Live In Warsaw! (1998)) were labeled avant-garde jazz, fusion or jazz rock. His latest work Another Side is of a different caliber. Here the trio plays, alongside Wertico on drums, Brian Peters on bass & organ and John Moulder on electric guitar, a more modest pallet of musical experiments. Because Wertico does not allow a wrong mind to exist, he will not soon walk the familiar paths and always looks for new ways. A second remarkable fact is that Wertico's records, as well as Another Side, are not records in which he exhibits his skills as a drummer song after song. That Wertico is an extremely skilled and virtuoso drummer is not to be argued. Perhaps that is why it is all the more to be commended that he emphatically takes on the role of band member (and composer) on Another Side and lets his partners excel. Only three of the sixteen numbers are played exclusively by him, with, by the way, fascinating percussion patterns. The CD has been recorded live, i.e. without mixes or edits afterwards. Another Side is not an easy record, but one that offers more and more through repeated listening.

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