Walter Wierbos' X Caliber
is, as its subtitle (splayed out over the three track titles of this recording) says: 1. "A Demonstration," 2. "Of Extreme," 3."Trombone Techniques." The first track is a series of breathing exercises that gradually create a series of dynamics and muted squealing sounds that mutate into tonal tunnels for over 22 minutes. The second is the most dynamically diverse, in that it uses mutes and stones to cover an entire series of scalar variations in short phrases that transmogrify into longer and longer lines. The third part of this demonstration combines them both with ostinato phrasing. Now if this sounds like it's boring, it's not. If this sounds like it's long and introspective, it is; perhaps obsessively so. But Wierbos
is no ordinary improviser or musical theorist. As a member of the ICP Orchestra
and Franz Koglmann's Piptet
, he has displayed his penchant for the extremes of both arranged lyricism and free improvisation. As a result of his expertise and vision, X Caliber
is a fascinating record in many respects, not the least of which are the fairly pedestrian concerns that so many tonal and timbral variations could be extracted from the trombone -- and with such musicality. Granted, this isn't everybody's shot of whiskey, but if you're reading this, you must have at least a passing interest in Wierbos
as a soloist. If you do, there is no excuse not to seek this out.