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Concert Preview: Drummer trio rolls to a beat of its own

Drummer Paul Wertico says people have a hard time categorizing his group.

by Nate Guidry

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Arts & Entertainment - Music

June 1, 2007

A high-octane drummer, a Catholic priest who lays down funky guitar licks and a whiz kid bassist are what you'll hear tonight at Gullifty's.

Paul Wertico, a seven-time Grammy Award-winning drummer who performed in Pat Metheny's group for nearly two decades, will lead his trio into the Squirrel Hill restaurant.

In addition to Wertico, the trio features bassist Brian Peters and John Moulder on guitar. The Rev. Moulder is an associate pastor at St. Gregory the Great in Chicago, which makes him a priest by day and jazz musician by night.

"He's an amazing guitarist and one of the busiest session musicians in Chicago," said Wertico of his guitarist. "We've known each other for about 20 years. What's so funny is he usually doesn't tell people he's a priest. He's a cross between Mike Stern and John Scofield, but he sounds like himself."

And so does Wertico's trio, which has been compared to every group from Tony Williams' Lifetime to King Crimson.

"The band is pretty trippy," said Wertico. "People have a hard time categorizing the group, which is kind of cool."

Wertico said he's been looking forward to returning to Gullifty's since December, when he was in town backing up guitarist Larry Coryell.

"It's going to be interesting to hear people's reaction to the music. I usually don't have a chance to book my trio because I'm always on the road playing with other people.".

Wertico grew up in Chicago and started playing drums at 12. His mother told him he should start playing music but asked him not to study the drums.

"Playing drums was like the only thing I wanted to do," he said with a slight chuckle. "I joined the school band, and it came really natural to me."

After high school, he was awarded a full scholarship to Western Illinois University. But he quit during his second semester after sitting in with Cannonball Adderley's band, which was performing a workshop at the school.

"It was really a successful sit-in, and I told the drummer, Roy McCurdy, that I wanted to leave school. And he thought I should, so I quit school the next day."

Wertico returned to Chicago and started playing with guitarist Ross Trout, who was Pat Metheny's roommate at the University of Miami.

In 1978, he received a call from Metheny to join his band, but Wertico turned down the offer because he was working with tenor saxophonist Joe Daley.

"Joe was a legendary player and teacher in the area," said Wertico. "We had this big gig at the Jazz Showcase, and I didn't want to let Joe down, so when Pat called I told him I was sorry but I couldn't take the job. Pat was impressed with that."

Then in 1982, Metheny approached Wertico again, and this time Wertico couldn't resist.

He joined Metheny in Chicago and remained with him for 18 years.

"It was an incredible learning process," said Wertico. "But in some ways, I began to become typecast as a certain type of player. Because of the way the music was mixed, I was thought of as a heavy cymbal player."

After the birth of his daughter, Wertico decided it was time to cut down the road trips.

"I didn't want to be on the road all the time," he said. "With Pat it was three months on the road and two weeks at home."

Now, he's leading his own band, and after nearly two years he's finally starting to feel as if the group has its own sound.

"It's real organic," he said. "There's no real set list. We just play, and it's different. And the crowd just really gets into it."

You are here: Home > Interviews > Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - June 1, 2007