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Lyle Workman: Uncommon Measures

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Lyle Workman: Uncommon Measures
Photograph of the artist by Tom Dellinger

Lyle Workman has one of the most remarkable reputations in music. Not only has he played with some of the world’s most celebrated marquee names in music, but he has also written for one of the most noteworthy giants of jazz – the legendary drummer Tony Williams – and composed scores for blockbuster movies. His 2021 album makes full use of his rich and variegated musical experience.

Most impressive, of course is not simply how ambitious this project – Uncommon Measures – is, but how effectively Mr Workman has melded together all the moving – often disparate – parts into a contiguous whole. Even better than that is how Mr Workman has managed to ignite each of the songs with orchestrations that are both momentous in the scope of their soundworld and also explosive and memorable in the manner in which melodic and harmonic content locks in with rhythmic pulses. The result is music that is unique in character.

Throughout the recording we seem to find ourselves as listeners, confronted by a musical edifice that seems to grow in stature as the album progresses. It is not entirely accurate to say that Mr Workman provides direction for these works with the sound of his guitar or keyboard. Not only does the music stem from the extraordinary density of sound that he is able to produce from those instruments alone, but this [impetus] seems to be also used as a leaping off point to fire up the rest of the ensemble of sound.

Throughout, Mr Workman’s taut control of melody and harmony serves to sculpt the music’s very character. Often the guitarist sets the pulse for the rhythmists too, appropriately directing bassist and drummer to follow into his flowing tempi. The dotted rhythms also have a delightful snap – as in “Unsung Hero”, for instance – and the winds and brass buzz merrily on, with the rest of the orchestral instrumentation palpitating on so that the music takes wing.

On “Labyrinth of Love” his rounded noted and gently bending glissandos melt into sonorous, delightful phrased lines. Rhythmically Mr Workman also rings in the changes – never leaning too heavily on the down-beats. Thus music has a devilishly-charming and wandering, Gypsy-like character, which is also informed by generous dollops of charm and wit. The recorded sound is warm and vivid throughout. This makes for continuously compelling listening.

Track list – 1: North Star; 2: All the Colors of the World; 3: Noble Savage; 4: Arc of Life; 5: Imaginary World; 6: Unsung Hero; 7: Labyrinth of Love; 8: Rise and Shine; 9: Our Friendship

Personnel – Lyle Workman: electric and acoustic guitars, and keyboards; Tim Lefebvre: bass [1, 2, 5, 6, 8]; Dan Lutz: bass [4]; Sam Wilkes: bass [3]; Vinnie Colaiuta: drums [1, 2]; Abe Laboriel Jr: drums [3]; Tony Panos: drums [4]; Donald Barrett: drums [5, 6]; Matt Chamberlain: drums [8]; Jeff Babko: electric piano and organ [1, 5, 6]; Charlie Bisharat: violin [1, 2, 3]; Wade Culbreath: vibraphone, marimba and glockenspiel [1 – 3]; Katisse Buckingham: alto saxophone [5, 6]; Ron Ziubla: tenor saxophone [5, 6]; Jamie Hovorka: trumpet [5, 6]; Chris Bleth: oboe, flute and clarinet [2]; Greg Leisz: pedal steel [8]; LACHSA Choir – Aleta Braxton: choirmaster; Skylar Leh-Bryant, Leilani Patao, Rachel Goodman, Monique Ramirez, Coco Mori:

Released – 2021
Label – Blue Canoe Records
Runtime – 52:27

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