Review: There's Always Something

This record, the debut from bandleader and drummer Wyatt, reveals some valuable things about confidence and musical coherence in jazz. How is it that a jazz album, with a solid band in great sound, feauturing capable solos and supportive interplay, leaves the feeling that there’s something very wrong?

Wyatt is credited as the composer of all the material, and the tracks go well beyond that standard riffing tune/solos/reprise format, which is always welcome. But the music goes astray in subtle and damaging ways. I appreciate the effort and concept he put into writing the material, but it’s put together all wrong.

The problem is that there is so much going on that the music can’t find it’s away to say enough of anything for the listener to know what it’s about, what the goal is. It’s not that this has a busy sound, with everyone flying off in different directions, or that it overwhelms  with waves of notes and activity. On the surface, the music is transparent, precise, direct. But most tracks trie to do so many things without doing one thing with clear meaning and intent. The result is music that is not fully coherent.

“Clockwork,” the second track, gives it away in both title and structure. There is an intro, then an interlude, then a section that sounds like either another intro or a “B” section, then another interlude, then a solo over the second interlude material, a second solo, then a section that modulates and sounds like a coda, then back to the intro. Way too many parts. Every note and measure is solid, and the band — Kyle Wilson and Masahiro Yamamoto on saxophones, Greg Ruggiero playing guitar, Danny Fox on piano and Christopher Tordini on bass — play everything with skill and understanding. But Wyatt’s material never develops anything, and gives few chances for the players to do the same. It doesn’t say anything, or rather it has too many things to say, most of which are incomplete sentences.

It’s not terrible, and it has a pleasing sound. But close listening is uncomfortable, it tries so hard to make it’s mark and, by trying so hard, misses it. But Wyatt can clearly play and think, and I would expect him to do the latter with more clarity and focus as the days go by.

The CD will be released by Nowt Records on September 4, with release gigs on September 6 at Douglass Street Music Collective and October 9 at Shrine World Music Venue in Harlem.


I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.