Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Music: John Westberry "Tyrjedza" CD-R

Unquestionably one of Nashville's finest drummers working in the underground, or mostly not working in... Westberry is fairly emersed in the Mainstream Jazz house-show establishment known as Jazz 948, and you might even find him onstage at Green Hills Old-Money watering hole, F. Scott's.

And OK, I understand the attraction to playing that kind of music... It's technically demanding/satisfying and you can make a buck.

But JW at least has one ear pointed toward the "avant" on this release, a collection of mostly-slow burning "pretty" free jazz that occasionally hints at ambient music.

Every track is a duet with either trumpeter Edwin Santiago, or electric pianist Tyson Rodgers, and while Westberry's playing is uniformly subtle and in the pocket, the two other musician's contributions are variously effective and... not.

Rodgers' frantic playing on "Unfinished Look" and opener "Sprint" compliment JW's swift hands perfectly. This is about as good as free improv gets in Nashville. On other songs ("Build", "Abstract") he lets his Rhodes melt into ring-modulator and delay effects while Westberry deftly adds color, playing on the toms and accentuating different tones, pings and hisses from his cymbals, pretty badass. But on other tracks like "Light", the piano playing is so simple, white-keys-only kinda stuff, that you can hardly believe dude has a degree in performance from a major university, which I can only assume he does.

The ambient-piano isn't always bad. Take for example, "Stuttering" which features light-modal playing at first that eventually catches on itself and loops like a CD skipping at a particularly pleasant moment. It's like glitch-jazz, and that's pretty cool.

Similarly, Santiago's dark-toned, unpretentious trumpet-playing sounds beautiful and rich sometimes ("Conversation Piece B", "The Unwritten Rule"), but he sometimes flounders into obvious arpeggios that harken to well-worn standards, and these feel too much like accidents, like he doesn't know quite where to go next and is treading water. On moodier material like "Conversation Piece C", he seems to attempt Coltrane-Minor-seriousness from his horn while Westberry conjours similarly at the kit, all rolls and crashing cymbals like Love Supreme's "Resolution".

Westberry may have the technical chops, but he's not quite convincing in this mode of "heavy" Jazz. He's too polite. But then album-closer "Abrupt" may be the most "challenging" track and one of my favorites and it cuts off mid-riff. I wish it lasted longer!

Classy looking, totally-recycled sleeve and insert. Self-released.

1 comment:

  1. Check out John on 4 episodes of Theatre Intangible and, hopefully, a few more in the near future. http://www.theatreintangible.com/category/search-episodes-by-participants/john-westberry/


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