Seven-time Grammy winner Paul Wertico, a name long-synonymous with innovation and Herculean energy/talent in the world of drums, has stepped out of the box once again to present an album that defies genre boundaries. In addition to the usual suspects of his trio including guitarist John Moulder and bassist Brian Peters, Wertico has combined forces with Israeli guitarist Dani Rabin and saxophonist Danny Markovitch to form the Mid East/Mid West Alliance. The product of this marriage of talent recently came together at Studiomedia Recording Studio in Evanston, IL, where, after two short evenings of transcendental artistry, Impressions of a City (Chicago Sessions, 2009) was born.
With the help of Nick Eipers, master engineer and owner of Chicago Sessions, this recording rises above even Wertico's high artistic standards. This team has created a dreamscape that combines experience with differing definitions of mood, daily life and emotional maturation. Their strengths and talents allure from track-to-track. This collective and wholly improvisatory vision manifests itself as a soundtrack for the weary ear, offering a different perspective of what music is and what it can be. There are large servings of ear candy for the soul. A beast lurks deep beneath the musicians thoughts whereas, in other moments, there are tinges of beauty that speak as a siren would, calling out to the vulnerable lives within their sounding range. Tearing through this Babylon of sound, Wertico's impeccable ability to marry artistic dreams with talent are alarmingly in tune and have provided, yet again, a new standard bearer for music and the shape of it to come.
All About Jazz: This recording is quite unique...not like a jazz album at all. Can you tell us the story behind the formation of the Mid East/Mid West Alliance?
Paul Wertico: The story behind this is as intriguing as the record is. I've had my trio since the '90s. It's basically been John Moulder, who is one of my best friends and an incredible guitarist. I've played with him since the early '90s when I played on his first CD, Awakening. Then there's Brian Peters, who I met a few years ago when I recorded my CD, StereoNucleosis. He's this young genius. He plays, or at least it seems like it, just about every instrument imaginable, and also does fantastic engineering, mixing and a lot more. The three of us have been playing together for about five years.
Then one day out of the blue, I heard from a guitarist named Dani Rabin, who had just moved to Chicago with his saxophonist friend, Danny Markovitch. They're both from Israel and moved here recently from Boston. They said they got my name from Jamey Haddad, the great percussionist who plays with Paul Simon and Paul Winter and teaches at Berklee [College of Music, in Boston]. They asked me if I wanted to hear them play, so I could give them my opinion of their music. I said sure, and wrote down a date for them to come over to my house, but I must have forgotten about it. They showed up at my door one night while my family and I were having dinner and they had tons of amps, pedals and other equipment...I thought, "Oh no." But once they got set up and began to play...it was incredible. I couldn't believe how great they were, they sounded like an ECM record!
After hearing them I thought they would be a wonderful addition to my trio. They were exactly what I had been waiting for. My wife and I hired them, along with John and Brian, to play for my daughter's Bat Mitzvah. Both Danny and Dani know a lot about Israeli music. During the luncheon after the service, the four of them began playing and as I listened to them, I knew that I had found the perfect combination of players.
Once I knew we were going to play together as a band, I realized we had two guys from the Middle East and three guys from the Midwest...so that's when I came up with the Mid-East/Mid-West Alliance idea.
AAJ: Chicago Sessions is not a well known label...yet. Why did you go with them as opposed to someone better known for this album?
PW: Nick Eipers, who runs Chicago Sessions, talked to me while I was playing with Larry Coryell at the Jazz Showcase in December 2008. This was after I had already met Dani and Danny. He asked if I wanted to be on his label. I wasn't sure how I felt about it at that time, so I didn't say yes or no, I kept my options open. In the interim, I heard from Nick a few more times and then he told me that the label was only looking for original music. I knew it was going to be a perfect match from that point.
I'm really glad we went with Nick and Chicago Sessions because so often a label can ruin a project by wanting to have too much control over it. But Nick just let us do whatever we wanted to do. He didn't run any interference. The album wouldn't have been the same if he had done that. Instead it turned out just as I had imagined it would.
Although Nick is a wonderful engineer, we decided to edit the record down ourselves. We gave it to him as a finished product so he could master it. At first I was worried. I didn't tell him we were going to edit it and mix it because I wanted control over it and plus I didn't know Nick all that well yet. I didn't know if he'd be game. I did know though, that his records sounded great, but it's hard when you have all these unnamed improvised pieces on a recording that are interspersed. You can't just tell someone on the phone what you're looking for. But when we gave it to Nick after Brian mixed it, he was thrilled with the results. Then I was really glad we went with him and his label. It wouldn't have been the same with some other labels.