Musician-composer Peter Welker has had quite the career over the course of his adult life. His resume includes work with the likes of Al Jarreau, The Pointer Sisters, Buddy Miles, and even Bob Dylan and Jerry Garcia. His work with those famed musicians makes up only a portion of the noted expansive resume. He added even more to that resume last month with the release of his latest project, Sidemen. Released Aug. 6 through Summit Records, the 11-song record features guest appearances from Tony Levin, Pete Levin, Tom Scott, Bill Champlin, and Steve Morse and features an interesting mix of originals and covers. Among the most notable of the record’s featured originals is the record’s only work with vocals, ‘You’re Gonna Let It Happen.’ This song will be discussed shortly. ‘Creepin’ Up’ is another of the record’s notable originals and will be examined a little later. The cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Third Stone From The Sun’ is the most notable of the record’s covers. It will also be discussed later. All three songs show in their own way how much the record has to offer. When they are considered along with the rest of the featured compositions, the whole makes the record another successful offering from Welker.
Peter Welker’s latest studio recording as a band leader, Sidemen, is a presentation that will appeal to a wide range of audiences; this despite it being released through a label that is largely known for handling jazz records. The record succeeds through its blend of originals and covers. Among the most notable of the record’s originals is its only track that features vocals, ‘You’re Gonna Let It Happen.’ Co-written by Welker and Bill Champlin, the song’s lyrical content features a relatively familiar topic that is accessible in its own right. It is a song sung by a man who is determined to get a woman to emotionally let him in and accept him in general, no matter how long it takes and what it takes. He is determined to find out what will appeal to her so that she will like him. It makes the song one of those works that would be a good fit in any relationship’s formative days. It is just one part of what makes the song work, too. The composition’s musical arrangement builds on the appeal formed by the song’s fully accessible lyrical theme to make the song that much more engaging and entertaining.
The musical arrangement featured in this song, is a relaxed but funky composition. The use of the horns — including saxophonist Tom Scott’s solo – alongside the steady, solid time keeping from Todd Tribble and musical spice from organist Bill Champlin makes the arrangement so fun. Not only does Champlin handle the B-3 organ here, but he also handles vocal duties. His dirty, gritty vocals are so rich in their presentation, adding even more to the presentation, especially when he hits those high notes. The collective of all involved along with them makes this song’s musical arrangement fully immersive and entertaining. It is just one of the songs that makes the album so fun, too. ‘Creepin’ Up’ is another notable original featured in this album.
‘Creepin’ Up’ stands out because its arrangement, is an interesting balance of old and new. The song’s opening bars come across as a sort of throw back to the fusion sounds of Weather Report. That sound lasts only a brief moment, though. From there, Greg Johnson’s work on saxophone and the work of his fellow horn players conjures thoughts of the jazz sounds that were so popular in the 80s. Meanwhile, David K. Matthews’ work on piano gives the song a lighter touch, making it a little more widely accessible as he breaks through the jazz subgenre boundaries. His work along with that of Tribble on the drums and that of the rest of the collective makes this song so unique against its counterparts. The whole becomes a surprisingly infectious work that is so smooth and light at the same time. It is just a wonderful addition to the album that further exhibits what makes the album so engaging and entertaining. It is yet another example of the album’s strengths. The cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Third Stone From The Sun’ is the most notable of the record’s featured covers.
Steve Morse’s work on guitar in ‘Third Stone From The Sun’ would make Jimi himself just as proud (if he were still with us today) as it will certainly his legions of fans worldwide. That includes both his solo and his work alongside his fellow musicians in this case. The light, bluesy sound and the production therein makes his work so rich. Tribble’s work on the drums is just as impressive as that of Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell. He remains solid throughout the song as he adds little fills and flares at all of the right points. Meanwhile Cliff Hugo’s work on bass works just as well in coordination with that of his fellow musicians. When the horns come into play and join the trio, the group in whole creates a take on this classic Hendrix composition that is just as enjoyable as its source material if not better. When this composition is considered along with the other songs examined here and with the rest of the album’s works, the entirety of that material makes Sidemen a fully immersive musical experience that audiences across the musical universe will enjoy.
Peter Welker’s new project, Sidemen is an impressive new offering from the veteran musician/composer. That is evidenced from beginning to end of the hour-long presentation. The arrangements that make up the record’s body make that clear. They span musical genres and fully immerse audiences in each case. The songs examined here do well to support the noted statements. When they are considered with the rest of the album’s works, the whole makes Sidemen one of the best of this year’s new overall albums, at least in the ears and mind of this critic.
Sidemen is available now through Summit Records. More information on this and other titles from Summit Records is available online at:
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