Richmond, California (EastBayDaily) — The buoyant grooves and graceful melodies heard on the forthcoming CD “The Desired Effect” serve to introduce a fresh new voice in jazz—Tom Wetmore, whose Crosstown Records will release the pianist/composer’s exceptional debut, “The Desired Effect,” on January 17.
The 29-year-old Massachusetts native has been active on the New York scene since 2005, leading his own traditional jazz trio as well as his eclectic sextet. He’s also performed and/or recorded with Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, T.K. Blue, Bernard Purdie, and the fine contemporary players showcased on his new disc.
Its nine tracks feature a uniquely voiced frontline of alto saxophone and two lead guitars, with Wetmore playing electric Rhodes piano throughout, utilizing time signatures that shift frequently within each composition. “It’s really two lead guitars,” he says of the frontline. “There’s no rhythm guitar. When I compose I think of the guitars and sax as contrapuntal voices, and it really allows for some interesting explorations.”
The nucleus of Wetmore’s sextet began forming during his graduate studies at William Paterson University, where he earned a master’s degree in Jazz Performance in 2007. He’s joined on “The Desired Effect” by alternating alto saxophonists Jaleel Shaw and Eric Neveloff, guitarists Brad Williams and Justin Sabaj, electric bassist Michael League, and drummer Garrett Brown.
The CD title was inspired by a line from the song “P. Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)” from Parliament’s “Mothership Connection” (1975): “The desired effect is what you get when you improve your interplanetary funksmanship.”
“It’s my odd little way of saying that this music isn’t about having a story, or meaning, or any type of grand idea,” explains the pianist. “It’s about the desired effect—which stands in for all the different kinds of beauty people could find.”
Or as Wetmore writes in his liner notes: “This music is about being true—or, at the very least, striving to be true. It is about beauty, about being touched. When you allow yourself to be touched, The Desired Effect is what you get.”
As a teenage piano student, Wetmore was introduced to the music of Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock, and within months had landed a regular gig playing jazz standards at a local café. He went on to study physics and government at Cornell University, but before completing his undergrad work he took a semester off to study in Boston with legendary pianist and composer Ran Blake.
“I’ve never really encountered anybody who has worked out a way to truly transcend style like Ran,” he says of studying with Blake. “I learned how to be true to improvising. Every note really comes from inside you, not from a pattern or a lick or from a solo you transcribed.”
Currently, Wetmore keeps a disciplined regimen of writing at least one new composition each day and posts the scores on http://www.tomstuneaday.com. In a “very natural next step for me,” he intends to pursue doctoral studies in jazz performance in the near future. “I prize myself as an instinctual natural performer and composer,” he says, “but I also believe in contributing to scholarship. I think that working toward a Ph.D. would create a solid balance between performance and scholarly pursuit, which would allow me to become a better jazz musician overall.”
Upcoming CD release shows for “The Desired Effect” include the Tea Lounge in Brooklyn, 1/19, and Somethin’ Jazz Club in Manhattan, 2/4. Wetmore will be playing electric piano, with guitarists Brad Williams and Justin Sabaj; bassist Matt Turowski, and drummer Garrett Brown. Alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw is set to appear at the Tea Lounge show, Eric Neveloff at Somethin’ Jazz.