Clubland: Multi-instrumentalist Matt Weston, bandmates, play Flywheel in Easthampton
Multi-instrumentalist Matt Weston is a lifelong student of music, always listening and learning from fellow musicians, whether it’s someone who has an official faculty position, or a bandmate who might not realize how much they’re teaching.
While at Bennington College in Vermont, for example, Weston studied improvisation, composition and performance with Arthur Brooks, an avant-garde trumpeter/composer who’s played professionally for over 40 years, taught for more than 30, and collaborated with Cecil Taylor, Bill Dixon, Alan Silva and Sonny Sharrock, among others.
Since the 1970s, Brooks has led various permutations of Ensemble V, a democracy of a band that lives and thrives on improvisation — there’s no written music and any member can take the lead. It’s an in-the-moment melding of minds.
A version of that group, with bassist Anthony Santor and Weston on drums, will play at Flywheel in Easthampton on Friday at 8 p.m. Opening the show will be the Paul Flaherty/Jake Meginsky/Andy Crespo Trio.
Weston stayed in touch with Brooks after graduation and played gigs with him in the late-1990s and early 2000s, reconnecting last year to play a Chicago festival.
“We’ve tried to stay consistently active since then,” said Weston, who now lives in Albany, N.Y., not exactly next door to Burlington, Vt., where Brooks is based.
The distance hardly matters.
“I practice daily on my own,” Weston said, “but having been a student of Arthur’s, what I learned (and am learning) from him is always present.”
The same is true for his inspiring friend and onetime bandmate, Teri Morris, the passionate drummer whose powerhouse fills and unique rhythmic ideas added wildfire to the long-running Northampton-based rock trio Tizzy.
That band went through a number of lineups, the last of which had creative and rocking electric guitar and songwriting input from live wire Weston, who lived in Northampton from 1998 to 2009 and was also a part of such local bands as Barn Owl and Thrillpillow.
“I learned a tremendous amount from watching and listening and playing with Teri,” said Weston, who was in the group for its final four years. “The way she propelled a band was unbelievable.” Morris battled breast cancer and passed away on June 9, 2011, a still-shocking event for those (including this writer) whose lives were touched by her intense and dedicated musicianship, unflagging energy and warm, beaming spirit.
“I don’t think I’ve ever worked with anyone, in any area of music-making, who was so fearless,” Weston wrote in an enlightening piece on his Tarfumes blog in August of that year.
He mentions that he’s only felt starstruck three times in his life — when he met Rashied Ali, when he met Elvin Jones, and when he met Morris. “I think it has to do with all three being drummers whose abilities I aspired to, drummers I could never even hope to imitate,” he wrote.
Weston recently released a 7-inch single dedicated to Morris, featuring the instrumental compositions “Coiling for the Kickback” (its title is a line of Teri’s from the Tizzy song “Turnstile Girl”) and “Walking Through the Undertow.” The pieces have very different personalities: the former powers along on tumbling, manic drums while argumentative guitars chatter from opposite speakers; the latter is full of quickly edited percussive bits of live drums and electronics, fitting many moods into its 5-minute running time.
“The drum part for the A-side came to me one day while I was practicing, very soon after Teri passed,” Weston said. “Whenever I sit down to practice or play I think, ‘What would Teri do?’ So, since this part just sort of appeared, and since it reminded me something Teri might have done, I decided to record it and create something around it as a tribute to Teri.”
In his blog, he wrote, “Her drumming was so distinctive and imaginative that, beyond forcing me to reexamine my own approach, it made me jump up and down. “Every Tizzy show I played was, without exception, a dream come true. I was always a Teri fan, and I will always be a Teri fan.”
Weston’s single, featuring cover art by Jotham Stavely, is available at www.7272music.com.