Calling themselves "an accidental brass quartet," the members of The Westerlies, like the prevailing winds, blew east to New York from their hometown of Seattle, where they were childhood friends.
Young musicians today routinely resist being pigeonholed into a single genre. Such is the case with this unconventional band, which, through its compositions and tight ensemble playing, reveals a built-in sympathy for improvised jazz, rigorous classical structures and sunshiny pop. Trumpeters Riley Mulherkar and Zubin Hensler and trombonists Andy Clausen and Willem de Koch can blow hard — after all, this is a brass band — but the surprise comes in their soft tones and subtle phrasing.
Clausen provides two tunes, beginning with "New Berlin, New York," which sports a snappy theme, standing out like a bright tie on a smart suit. A scurrying pattern of interlocking notes furnishes the underlying fabric. His closing number, "Rue Des Rosiers," conjures up the circus-like vibe of a Parisian street scene. A whimsical theme gradually coalesces from fragments and grows into a rollicking amusement. Between these two pieces, Hensler's "Run On Down" evokes the calm beauty of Washington's San Juan Islands, north of the band's former home base.
The quartet has just released its ambitious second record, a double album of mostly original compositions. With The Westerlies' open ears and confident musicianship, it will be fascinating to see which direction the band blows next.
Riley Mulherkar, Zubin Hensler (trumpet); Andy Clausen, Willem de Koch (trombone).
Producers: Tom Huizenga, Niki Walker; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Niki Walker, Nicole Boliaux; Production Assistant: CJ Riculan; Photo: Claire Harbage/NPR.
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