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Riley Mulherkar - Riley (Westerlies)

26 February 2024

Trumpeter Riley Mulherkar usually plies his trade with the all-acoustic, rhythm-less brass band the Westerlies. For Riley, however, he’s chosen a different route: blending standards and originals with modern production approaches. Alongside pianist Chris Pattishall, bassist Russell Hall, and drummer Kyle Poole, Mulherkar borrows fairly faithfully from the catalogs of Jelly Roll Morton (“King Porter Stomp”), Hoagy Carmichael (“Stardust”), the Gershwins (“Honey Man”), and the Alan Lomax collection (“No More”), just to remind us how deeply felt his sense of tradition is. But that doesn’t mean he’s entirely faithful to the olden ways: “Honey Man” features haunted atmospheres from Pattishall and sound designer/programmer/mixer Rafiq Bhatia. Meanwhile, Mulkerhar tunes like “Looking Up” and “Looking Out” use the same accouterments to enhance the already gorgeous melodies, while “Ride or Die” and “Hopscotch” stick to acoustic music but still sound twenty-first century. The headliner leads with his instrument, but doesn’t dominate – the more important thing here is his artistic vision, not his admittedly remarkable technique. Betwixt that and the song choices, Riley is a strong and forward-thinking album.