Don't Be Scared Anymore (Premonition), the 2000 debut studio date from drummer Paul Wertico and his trio, immediately marked the group as a delightful anachronism. They played music that hadn't been heard since the heyday of fusion--when such groups as the Tony Williams Lifetime and the Mahavishnu Orchestra roamed the earth, unapologetically powered by rock--before the dilutions of the 80s robbed the term of whatever integrity it once had. Spurred on by dark, lapidary lines from bassist Eric Hochberg and the snarling guitar of John Moulder, Wertico indulged the wild side of his wide range. Three years later, Wertico's nearly finished with the follow-up, StereoNucleosis (A440), due in April, and he's taken pains to make the band's sound a bit more polished and accessible without losing the ferocity of the power trio concept. The sound is heavily produced, with overdubbed keyboards as well as violin and guitar from up-and-comer Brian Peters; Wertico's kit is mixed in something close to mono and straight up the middle (a la John Bonham) rather than in the wide stereo spread typical of fusion drumming. But the album also has a greater cogency than the debut did, the payoff of the band's extended onstage improvising over the past couple years. This brand of music always risks slipping into mere bombast or narcissistic displays of technique. But Wertico--who spent a decade and a half in the extraordinarily controlled environment of the Pat Metheny Group--has developed a sure sense of balance, and his restraint guides the band past these potential hazards. Wednesday, January 14, 8:30 PM, HotHouse, 31 E.Balbo; 312-362-9707. On Saturday, January 24, Wertico will host a kids' workshop, a clinic, and an evening concert by the trio (with guests including Chicago percussionists Kalyan Pathak and Dede Sampaio) at Northwestern University's Pick-Staiger Concert Hall.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.