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Paul Wertico Trio

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PAUL WERTICO TRIO

During his 17 years with the Pat Metheny Group, Chicago-based drummer Paul Wertico has brought an impressive diversity of rhythms to the guitarist's persuasive hybrid of jazz and rock, building an international reputation as the rocket scientist of fusion drumming. But his advanced musical intelligence coexists with a soft spot for considerably less sophisticated stuff--fusion that draws on taut, raw rock 'n' roll, the kind Metheny rarely explores. (Ask Wertico about Metallica or Hendrix, and he'll carry on with the same passion he brings to discussions of Coltrane or Charles Ives.) A few years ago, answering this call of the wild, he tapped guitarist John Moulder and bassist Eric Hochberg to form this group, which I can only call a heavy-metal fusion trio. Moulder carries the lead with a romantic sweep and gothic strength, and the band's debut studio date, Don't Be Scared Anymore (Premonition), has a dark energy and snarly edge that recall early-70s hard rock. Though this hardly seems like fertile ground for jazz-based improvisation, the disc succeeds completely: its sophisticated compositions and deep musicianship supply an effective antidote to the lazy excesses and meaningless virtuosity that plagued so many rockers of that era. Wertico and company spin gold out of dross--and in the process recapture a creative excitement largely missing from electric jazz since the mid-80s records of Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society. At last month's release party for the album, the trio kept a packed house spellbound, with Moulder's monster solos stoked by Wertico's drumming and emphatic lines from Hochberg--who, with another high-profile gig, directing the spare acoustic backdrops behind folk-jazz icon Terry Callier, just might be the most versatile bassist in town. Friday, October 20, 11 PM, the Note, 1565 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-0011.

NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marty Perez.

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