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Paul Wertico - Paul Wertico's Drums Without Boundaries

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DownBeat

A seven-time Grammy winner who rose to fame in the ’80s and ’90s with the Pat Metheny Group, drummer Wertico has been pushing the envelope from behind the kit for decades. From his early Chicago-based group Earwax Patrol [sic] to his many outings as a leader, beginning with 1993’s The Yin And The Yout, Wertico has been an uncommonly open-minded musician.

Now 70, the intrepid drummer-composer-bandleader has undertaken perhaps his most audacious project to date in the company of the Italian Ichos Percussion Quintet. The results are as bold as they are uncategorizable.

The ensemble shifts nimbly from Scaglia’s Latin-flavored opener “Alchimia” to his free-boppish “Black Two” to Wertico’s freewheeling percussion jam “Corner Conversation,” highlighting the versatility of this project. Guitarist Alex Munk contributes a skronky, distortion-laced solo on the groove-heavy section of vibraphonist Mirko Pedrotti’s suite-like “Hunting,” while Scaglia’s delicate and melancholy “Sicily” has echoes from John Abercrombie’s ECM songbook.

But perhaps the most daring pieces, aside from an 11-minute deconstruction of John Cage’s “Third Construction,” are Wertico’s dynamic and somewhat cacophonous drumming showcases, like “Somewhere In Between,” “Time Well Served,” “Three Movements In Movement” and “You Can Get There From Here.” Thrilling, though not for the faint-hearted. - Four stars!

Chicago Jazz Magazine/ChicagoJazz.com

Conventional popular music, including jazz, has been understood as needing drummers to “keep the beat” and stay out of the way, even with the emergence of superstar drummers in big bands, like Gene Krupa, Chick Webb, and Buddy Rich. Relatively brief solos were always part of the jazz mix, at least in modern times. Not long after my introduction to a rhythm instrument as a solo excursion, I heard Joe Morello’s famous solo on the Brubeck Quartet’s “Castilian Drums” recorded at Carnegie Hall and was thereby convinced a drummer could be heard “musically” independent of his mates.

Since then, modern jazz drummers evolved into ensemble leaders and composers, and there are plenty of recordings that attest to their talents as arrangers and producers. A recent example comes from one of Chicago’s finest, Paul Wertico, whose longstanding career playing in various ensembles is well noted and rewarded. While many fans remember him as a member of the Pat Metheny Group (and as a stellar contributor to Metheny’s outstanding Secret Story), he has also played with Larry Coryell, Laurence Hobgood, Kurt Elling, Ken Nordine, Paul Winter, Bobby Lewis, and John Moulder, among many others.

However, not many know that Wertico has had a significantly successful career in Europe, where he is highly respected. Jazz fans and producers in Italy, especially, have coveted Wertico for performance and recordings, which are taken very seriously. Since 2008, Wertico has recorded and played with former Supertramp saxophonist John Helliwell as well as leading a trio on trips throughout Italy. (The whole list of references can be found here: https://www.paulwertico.com/discography/.)

A little over a year ago, Wertico was contacted by the Executive Producers of the Da Vinci Classics label to record an album featuring an Italian percussion ensemble, the Ichos Percussion Quintet (utilizing glockenspiel, marimbas, timpani, and other percussions added to the mix) and involving Wertico’s favorite Italian bassist, Gianmarco Scaglia, along with British guitarist Alex Munk and Italian vibraphonist Mirko Pedrotti.

Although Wertico was originally hired just as a special guest for the recording in Soncino, due to circumstances during the recording it became necessary for the inventive skinsman to be THE leader and producer to complete the project. The result is Drums Without Boundaries, a remarkable collection of pieces that demonstrate Wertico’s impressive abilities within groups, among fellow percussionists, in solo situations, and as a producer. While the ambiance of the occasions suggests an adventure in chamber music (including an interpretation of John Cage), the involvement of Munk and, on two cuts, fellow guitarist John Moulder, creates forms of Fusion and exploratory jazz elevated by the outstanding acoustics. Among the selections are works recorded elsewhere and reimagined by Wertico, the result of his listening to a feed and then playing on top of it. Thus, it would be instructive for the hearer to keep that in mind—good jazz drummers listen to their fellow players, and Wertico demonstrates that skill throughout the album.

Modern technology helps, too. Given the nature of sound, the percussion elements involved also had to be recorded separately and added. Much of this album was produced in layers; some of Wertico’s and both of Moulder’s contributions were not recorded in Italy, for example. With state-of-the-art facilities and a crack sound engineer, Gabriele Zanetti, at hand, this new record is recommended for those who have high quality sound systems at their disposal.

The selections fall into three types: the fusionesque offerings involving Munk and the basic ensemble; the pieces with Moulder’s reverbed, angular washes bathing Wertco and the Ichos Ensemble; and the percussive solo performances.

Scaglia contributed four compositions. “Alchimia” begins with a high powered Wertico expression that runs up to a Latin-ish melody played by Pedrotti. “Black Two,” previously recorded on a quartet album by Scaglia and Wertico, is given a frenetic, incessant acoustic bass groove while Munk provides space sounds that comp Pedrotti’s modal attack. “Sicily” is Scaglia’s turn to solo, with Muck’s tasty acoustic playing and Wertico’s sensitive cymbal support; this lovely song is, to me, too short. “Simple Land” again features the bassist, but with tympani accompaniment.

As for the drummer/leader, Wertico has five contributions and one prominent interpretation. “Corner Conversation” is a massive percussion vehicle with Wertico pounding and thrashing behind his layered, more sedate exploration. “Somewhere in Between” and “You Can Get There From Here” include Moulder’s ambient, synthesized additions. “Time Well Served” is a drum tour de force, accompanied by Ichos’ Gianmaria Romanenghi on timpani. “Three Movements In Movement” is a Wertico postmodern chamber high octane production.

Two cuts come closer to conventional jazz. “Hunting” begins as a blues and then morphs into extraterrestrial bop featuring a scathing ax attack from Munk. “Urban Mood” features a lightly rhythmed theme from Pedrotti bathed in Wertico’s own cymbal washes.

And then there is Wertico’s ‘Deconstructing’ of John Cage’s well known “Third Construction,” composed for a percussion quartet. Here Wertico’s “reconstructing” has more to do with his trying to represent four players in one performer. I decided to listen to a rendition of it online first to get a sense of what Paul was responding to (from the McGill Percussion Ensemble, 2011). Then I played the album and the recording simultaneously, or close to it. In the process, I got a real appreciation for Wertico’s ability to listen and respond.

Jazz, involving improvisation, imagination, and interpretation, can’t be settled into mere formula. The beauty of the genre is the personality and style of its players, who invent new ways to present often old stories. Paul Wertico, on Drums Without Boundaries, exemplifies what can happen if someone with the ability to realize, respond, and record puts trust in the performers. The result is a sound extravagance that brings the keen listener into the world of the artist’s imagination. - Four stars!

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Not So Modern Drummer

Once again, Paul Wertico pushes the sonically progressive envelope to its limits by creating ultra-modern music that occupies the space between Visual Arts and Experimental Jazz Idioms. Paul is continually exploring these advanced rhythmic concepts… Many of which verge on the sensory characteristics of ‘Synesthesia’… The perception of reality becomes significantly altered when an individual has Sound-Color ‘Synesthesia’. This is where someone can see specific colors when hearing certain sounds or music. Artists and Musicians often describe having this one specific form.

Synesthesia // sinəsˈTHēZH(ē)ə/

“Simply put, when one sense is activated, another unrelated sense is activated at the same time. This may, for instance, take the form of hearing music and simultaneously sensing the sound as swirls or patterns of color.”

Paul Wertico has always gone above and beyond the established definitions of ‘What Jazz Is’. Breaking everything down into a brand new melodic form of ‘Visualized Storytelling’. One never knows where Paul will be taking his next musical journey -- With most of his drumming being spontaneous and in the moment. Thankfully, Paul always records everything... Meticulously preserving it for the enjoyment of future generations.

“This music is alive, even more than “live”; and, as happens to all living beings, it cannot be analyzed or vivisected. It pulsates, breathes, moves about and seeks its way with the unforeseeable spontaneity of an organism in full possession of its will and ability.” -- Chiara Bertoglio

Although I appreciated every tune on Paul’s recent album - Drums Without Boundaries, the standout for me was: "(Deconstructing John Cage's) Third Construction" -- John Cage (1912-1992) was an American ‘Avant Garde’ composer who dedicated his life to experimental music. He challenged the very definitions of music and musicianship. Cage once said…

“Music is about changing the mind - not to understand, but to be aware.”

Cage's 1952 composition "4’ 33”" emphasized the absence of sound. Cage sat at the piano for 4 minutes and 33 seconds without playing a note. He presented silence as a structure within musical notation. Cage’s intent was to focus attention from the performer to the audience. Cage’s conceptual development of "4′33″" was the direct result of his interaction with visual artists he associated with at Black Mountain College.

“In the absence of deliberate sound, musicians who present the work do nothing but be present for the duration specified by the title. The content of the composition is intended to be the sounds of the environment heard by the audience during a performance.“ -- John Cage

Regarding John Cage: Between 1948 and 1953, Black Mountain College, in Asheville, North Carolina, was one of the leading experimental art schools in America. Cage first visited there in the spring of 1948.

The school attracted many notable students and teachers, including: Artists Josef and Anni Albers, Architect R. Buckminster Fuller, Abstract Painters Elaine and Willem de Kooning, Dancer and Choreographer Merce Cunningham, along with Painters Jasper Johns, and Robert Rauschenberg. It was Rauschenberg who influenced John Cage in the early 1950’s which was later proven to be immeasurable.

In the same spirit of experimentation, Paul Wertico appropriated John Cage’s "Third Construction" improvising over the piece totally with brushes for 11 minutes and 25 seconds. Paul described this as the complete use and integration of ‘Horizontal’ drumming, creating forward motion and a smooth, continuous, seamless sideways flow - rather than employing a ‘Vertical’ up and down, jagged, stop-and-start type rhythmic approach.

In the spirit of ‘Postmodernism’, John Cage who died in 1992 became an unknowing collaborator with Paul Wertico. Yet, together they have created a truly original piece of music spanning diverse periods of time.

“Cage’s music reveals itself gradually, as happens with all temporal phenomena and with all friendships; Wertico’s receptivity is in turn unveiled and constantly challenged as the process progresses.” -- Jeff Cebulski,

Paul Wertico recorded the album Drums Without Boundaries with Italian musicians - bassist, Gianmarco Scaglia, vibraphonist Mirko Pedrotti, The Ichos Percussion Ensemble, and British guitarist Alex Munk. On this new project, Paul was both the leader and producer.

Those interested in the future of drumming need to look no further.

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Drumming News Network

George Lawrence’s Not So Modern Drummer – "Paul Wertico: Drums Without Boundaries and Beyond" September 1, 2023 - Artist News, Latest Drum News, Not So Modern Drummer

Latest Drumming News

You can read this and dozens of other stories at www.NotSoModernDrummer.com. The story below was written by David Barsalou for Not So Modern Drummer on August 31, 2023:

Once again, Paul Wertico pushes the sonically progressive envelope to its limits by creating ultra-modern music that occupies the space between Visual Arts and Experimental Jazz Idioms. Paul is continually exploring these advanced rhythmic concepts… Many of which verge on the sensory characteristics of ‘Synesthesia’… The perception of reality becomes significantly altered when an individual has Sound-Color ‘Synesthesia’. This is where someone can see specific colors when hearing certain sounds or music. Artists and Musicians often describe having this one specific form.

Synesthesia // sinəsˈTHēZH(ē)ə/

“Simply put, when one sense is activated, another unrelated sense is activated at the same time. This may, for instance, take the form of hearing music and simultaneously sensing the sound as swirls or patterns of color.”

Paul Wertico has always gone above and beyond the established definitions of ‘What Jazz Is’. Breaking everything down into a brand new melodic form of ‘Visualized Storytelling’. One never knows where Paul will be taking his next musical journey — With most of his drumming being spontaneous and in the moment. Thankfully, Paul always records everything… Meticulously preserving it for the enjoyment of future generations.

“This music is alive, even more than “live”; and, as happens to all living beings, it cannot be analyzed or vivisected. It pulsates, breathes, moves about and seeks its way with the unforeseeable spontaneity of an organism in full possession of its will and ability.” — Chiara Bertoglio

Although I appreciated every tune on Paul’s recent album – Drums Without Boundaries, the standout for me was: "(Deconstructing John Cage’s) Third Construction" — John Cage (1912-1992) was an American ‘Avant Garde’ composer who dedicated his life to experimental music. He challenged the very definitions of music and musicianship. Cage once said…

“Music is about changing the mind – not to understand, but to be aware.”

Cage’s 1952 composition 4’ 33” emphasized the absence of sound. Cage sat at the piano for 4 minutes and 33 seconds without playing a note. He presented silence as a structure within musical notation. Cage’s intent was to focus attention from the performer to the audience. Cage’s conceptual development of 4′33″ was the direct result of his interaction with visual artists he associated with at Black Mountain College.

“In the absence of deliberate sound, musicians who present the work do nothing but be present for the duration specified by the title. The content of the composition is intended to be the sounds of the environment heard by the audience during a performance.“ — John Cage

Regarding John Cage: Between 1948 and 1953, Black Mountain College, in Asheville, North Carolina, was one of the leading experimental art schools in America. Cage first visited there in the spring of 1948.

The school attracted many notable students and teachers, including: Artists Josef and Anni Albers, Architect R. Buckminster Fuller, Abstract Painters Elaine and Willem de Kooning, Dancer and Choreographer Merce Cunningham, along with Painters Jasper Johns, and Robert Rauschenberg. It was Rauschenberg who influenced John Cage in the early 1950’s which was later proven to be immeasurable.

In the same spirit of experimentation, Paul Wertico appropriated John Cage’s "Third Construction" improvising over the piece totally with brushes for 11 minutes and 25 seconds. Paul described this as the complete use and integration of ‘Horizontal’ drumming, creating forward motion and a smooth, continuous, seamless sideways flow – rather than employing a ‘Vertical’ up and down, jagged, stop-and-start type rhythmic approach.

In the spirit of ‘Postmodernism’, John Cage who died in 1992 became an unknowing collaborator with Paul Wertico. Yet, together they have created a truly original piece of music spanning diverse periods of time.

“Cage’s music reveals itself gradually, as happens with all temporal phenomena and with all friendships; Wertico’s receptivity is in turn unveiled and constantly challenged as the process progresses.” — Jeff Cebulski

Paul Wertico recorded the album Drums Without Boundaries with Italian musicians – bassist, Gianmarco Scaglia, vibraphonist Mirko Pedrotti, The Ichos Percussion Ensemble, and British guitarist Alex Munk. On this new project, Paul was both the leader and producer.

Those interested in the future of drumming need to look no further.

‘Paul Wertico’s album Drums Without Boundaries. Da Vinci Classics is available through AMAZON.

“Whatever the format, I really want as many people as possible to hear this music, since I can’t adequately express how proud I am of this project and of everyone involved in the making of it!” — Paul Wertico

The original story: "Paul Wertico: The Sound Painter" by David Barsalou can be seen: HERE

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Kathodik Webzine (Italy)

This recent release of the Da Vinci Classics is a real ode to the contamination and fusion of different genres and musical styles, to the point that it could also have found its place in the other series of the record company in Osaka, namely the Da Vinci Jazz. The protagonist of this CD is first of all the great American drummer Paul Wertico, historic member of the Pat Metheny Group until 2001, collaborator of many celebrated artists (including David Bowie), and from several quarters considered an absolute authority in the world of percussion (especially jazz, but not only). To accompany him, we find a large group of talented and versatile musicians, who respond to the names of Gianmarco Scaglia on bass, Alex Munk and John Moulder on guitars, and Mirko Pedrotti on vibraphone, together with the percussionists of the Ichos Percussion Quintet. The presence of so many percussionists determines the sound of the songs performed: tribal, urban, corrosive, albeit with some precious moments of sound and emotional introspection. Most of the songs are signed by the same performers: Pedrotti, Scaglia (perhaps the most “solid” from the point of view of composition), and Wertico himself (who sometimes indulges in virtuousness and sound abstractions of not easy assimilation, but still interesting). There is also the Brescian composer Paolo Ugoletti, a profound connoisseur of the world of percussion, who with his Urban Mood offers us an extroverted, brilliant and extremely pleasant page. The last piece on the CD is a real gamble: the famous Third Construction by John Cage (dated 1941) is in fact subjected to a kind of fragmentation (deconstruction, as the title says), so that Wertico can respond, improvised, to the complex rhythmic joints created by the American composer. Is it a way to reconcile the constructivist Cage of the 1930s and 1940s with the random Cage of the following decades? I leave the arduous sentence to the listeners...

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Musica Jazz (Italy)

Twenty years later, or even more: a lot of time has passed since Paul Wertico closed with the Pat Metheny Group, of which he was a pillar from 1983 to 2001. Then the paths of the guitarist of Lee's Summit and the brilliant drummer parted ways: And the drummer from Chicago (seven Grammys to his credit) started his solo career, alternating with intense teaching and other side projects. Beyond an endless and eclectic number of collaborations (Larry Coryell, Terry Callier, Kurt Elling, Fred Simon, Jerry Goodman, Paul Winter, just to name a few), since 1993, Wertico has released eight albums as a leader. This Drums Without Boundaries is the ninth chapter of the series and sees him at the head of an Italian-Anglo-American band and in dialogue with Ichos Percussion, a quintet founded in 2013 that passes through the highlights of masters such as Cage, Reich, Varese, Glass to pages of Italian composers, from Boccadoro in Sollima. After all, the drummer is a regular of the Peninsula and it often happens to see him in concert with us.

Here we are faced with a record that brings to mind - but certainly not with the same variety and richness - the famous formation of Max Roach it is made up of the big names of modern African-American percussion. The pieces, written by the leader and his fellow travelers, fall into three categories: the fusion ones where the basic group is the protagonist; the minimal-contemporary ones in which the ambient guitar of John Moulder (Wertico's long-time collaborator) and Ichos are guests; and performances for percussion only (pervaded by ethno-tribal echoes, as in the case of "Corner Conversation") or more experimental (the eleven minutes of "Deconstructing John Cage"). Despite the many interesting moments, in the end the feeling is that a few less lengths would have benefited the overall balance of a work that will appeal to lovers of Wertico and the drum set.

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