Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tom Wetmore:The Desired Effect

I've always had a thing for the Fender Rhodes electric piano. Ever since I found Herbie Hancock's "Headhunters" at the library, I've been a fan of this primitive yet enchanting keyboard. It's so different in many ways than an acoustic piano; the tone, the tines, the sustain, the built in-amplification. My first real gig as a pianist was actually on a Fender Rhodes. I had a Rhodes in my dorm room at Peabody for a while. I once carried my suitcase Rhodes from Reade Street to Chambers Street in Baltimore after my car wouldn't start. Yes, I know the joy and the pain(back pain) of the Fender Rhodes.

This is why I'm enjoying Tom Wetmore's new album. "The Desired Effect" is a Rhodes lover's CD. Wetmore has some great compositions and has assembled a formidable cast of characters to embellish these compositions. This cast includes not one but two alto saxophonists: Jaleel Shaw and Eric Neveloff. Furthermore, there are two guitarists: Brad Williams and Justin Sabaj. The rhythm section is electric bassist Michael League, and drummer Garrett Brown.

Jaleel Shaw
"Red Lights" begins with Ab minor. The opening groove has a mellow, funky lope using a tricky meter which could be divided into 9/8,6/8,9/8/,8/8, although drummer Brown seems to treat it more like 7/4, 2/8, 8/4, 2/8(basically 7.5 and 8.5). The later makes it sound more relaxed, like a slightly skewed back beat. The melody uses the presence of 4 melodic instruments to it's advantage, twisting around the beat with an intertwined counterpoint. The bridge goes to D minor, stays in 9/8, and develops the first melody, with even more interesting counterpoint. They return to Ab minor idea, then back to the D minor, but this time, there is an extension, which functions almost like a solo send-off. Jaleel Shaw is always killing, but here he is pulling out most of the stops. it's a very exciting solo, and Wetmore comps for Shaw well. I first listened to this CD in my car, but when I put in on again with my headphones, I swear that I hear Rhodes comping on the left channel, and then again on the right, as if there were two Rhodes. It's a cool effect. (I thought maybe it was guitar but I'm pretty sure after re-listening that it's two channels of Rhodes.)

Lost Tribe
"Wild Card" is a calm, contemporary waltz, with a much more easily digested melody than the previous tune. The Rhodes combined with guitar create a smooth wall of sound. Shaw is again featured. Wetmore also solos, in an extended, unaccompanied improvisation. Wetmore plays it cool, going for an introspective mood rather than pyrotechniques. "Good and Plenty", is another more mellow, grungy groove, which outs the guitarists Williams and Sabaj to good use. This one reminds me of a band from the 90's called Lost Tribe(which also featured two guitarists; David Gilmore and Adam Rogers, as well as alto saxophonist Dave Binney). Bassist League takes a great effect pedal driven bass solo. The piece builds with Willams and Sabaj soloing in tandem. It's cool how they compare and contrast each other's ideas.

"A Blessing" is a creepy tune, starting with a very mysterious bass line. Others enter in F minor with a major 7(minor with a major 7 always has a mysterious sound to it), but then surprise, back to minor chords with a flat 7; it's very striking. Wetmore finally gives himself another solo. I personally think that Wetmore could have featured himself more as a soloist, but on the other hand, it's kind of refreshing that the bandleader can let go of his ego and focus more on the overall vibe and let the compositions and group efforts speak for themselves.

"The Desired Effect" is a cousin of the opening tune, except the meter is 6/8,8/8,6/8,6/8. There's a nice guitar solo(I'm not sure which guitarist.) Wetmore tells a nice unaccompanied story to open the pensive "With Woven Wings". We hear more intensity from altoist Shaw, and another nice solo from Wetmore. Wetmore is a good example of someone who improvises phrases that are jazzy but not cliche. Some pianists(I'm probably included) tend to overplay the Rhodes; but Wetmore has the right touch to make it sing.

I'm looking forward to more from Mr. Wetmore. "The Desired Effect" is available on Itunes. Check out Wetmore's website at Also, keep in mind that Jaleel Shaw will be joining me at The Jazz Standard on April 24th in New York City. Hope to see you there!


  1. Thanks so much George for your kind words. I'm honored that you listened so closely and shared your experience here.

    And a note to your readers: you can listen to the entire album for free at my website,, and can purchase it pretty much everywhere. Sorry about the sales pitch, but we have to do all we can these days.

    And by the way, Brad Williams was the soloist on the title track.

    Thanks again!

  2. Hi George,

    Looking forward to chatting with you in New York! Here's a link to my interview with Tom Wetmore:

    All the best,



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