<br /><a style="font-size: 24px;" href="http://www.htmltimes.com/karl-walters-jr-trio.php">Karl Walters Jr Trio:</a>
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"A herd of buffalo dancing point ballet in the middle of a snow storm." This is how The Karl Walters Jr Trio describes its music. The description is apt. Amid the myriad genre allusions, meter twists, and pedal effects on the band's new album “Began”, The Trio chisels a sound uniquely its own. The lead trombonist/composer's half-drunk horn style leads the band through a songscape that is sometimes nostalgic and young and giddy. Drummer Matthew Ferry and Keegan Schelling follow him like 19th century trains followed the tracks newly laid before them: methodically and with direction.
Began's highlights are its short songs. The 45 second “Eternal Wait for What's Next” distills the best of Johnson's compositions and The Trio's playing; stunted momentum via time signature shifts, jerky harmonics that punch the stomach, and melodic contortions reminiscent of a singing circus freak sticking a sword through his ears. On the two minute “Wait Till You See”, the band acknowledges its rockier leanings with heavily distorted electric bass power chords that seamlessly intertwine with the smooth trombone riding above. On this song Schelling's bass style shines brightest because of his predisposition to the simple, the grooving, and the rocking. Both songs owe a debt to the jazz fusion savants Kneebody.
Percussively, the band is tight enough to choke an ant. Ferry's articulation of the stop-start melodies on songs like “Fluxura” make the most dissonant passages jam like jelly on peanut butter. Every moment of neck crooking grooves on Began is matched with another moment of tense, atmospheric ambiance. On “Someday I'll Travel”, heavily filtered trombone loops pair with crunchy clean cymbal sounds to induce a Radiohead-esque panic attack . The addition of a bass timbre reminiscent of "Saucer Full of Secrets" era Roger Waters makes the track an ideal companion for your bean bag chair and gravity bong.
“Cait's Park/Urisaglo”, another ambient tune, is a great example of the economy with which KWJ plays. The trombone is boisterous and excited, sounding like a humming bird humping a dolphin. The bass is harmonically repetitive enough to hold everything together, but its lazy semi-adherence to the beat assures it a dynamism comparable to the trombone and drums. That a 4 minute minimalist vamp at the beginning of the song "“Thought's on the End of Winter” keeps the listener enthralled is yet more credit to the musicianship of the KWJ Trio, particularly to Ferry's tasteful drumming.
Can We Go Back Where We Began best summons eponymous feelings of nostalgia in its two latin tunes. On “Forget About”, Johnson proves that for all of the album's genre bending and rhythmic ingenuity, he can write a simple, beautiful melody. To the band's credit, the latin songs blend very well with the rest of the album. Even on the fairly straight-ahead “Believe”, Johnson's harmonic contortions twist their way into the solo, leaving a peculiar taste in the ear; like fried chicken smothered in Pacific Ocean salt water and Vermont maple syrup. Delicious.
Though much of Began's success comes from its fusion of various styles, occasionally this fusion also leads the album astray. While sparse bass accompaniment works in the short, quick world of two minute rock songs, that ascetic philosophy occasionally feels out of place on Began's jazzier songs. Extended jazz improvisation (unless performed by a Coltrane) is palatable because of the variation in timbre and/or the underlying harmonic changes. With no chordal instrument such as a guitar or a piano, the harmonies are left entirely for the bass to outline, a sound that feels repetitive after a few tracks. The pedals employed to alter the sounds of the bass and trombone partially solve this, but they can't take the place of an entirely independent voice.
Nonetheless, The Trio's exploration of the space between genres and rhythms is a success. Although occasionally Began sails so far out to sea that even the huffiest gusts of Johnson's trombone can't propel the band back into coherence, Johnson's solid compositions and the rhythm's section's confident groove make “Can We Go Back Where We Began?” a good first album.