Reviews of Way Out West's 'The Effects of Weather'

Live Review, Jessica Nicholas The Age July 23, 2010

TUESDAY evening was cold and rainy, and the members of Way Out West were concerned about the turnout for the launch of their CD, The Effects of Weather. Fortunately, the weather seemed to have no effect on the band's legion of fans, who poured into Bennetts Lane to hear one of this city's most unusual jazz ensembles.

Formed in 2001 to celebrate the cultural diversity of Melbourne's western suburbs, the sextet incorporates Vietnamese instruments and West African rhythms into a contemporary jazz setting. Crucial to the success of the band's sound is multi-instrumentalist Anh Nguyen. At Tuesday's launch, Nguyen moved between a modified electric guitar and three traditional Vietnamese string instruments: the
dan bau, dan nguyet and dan tranh. Nguyen was as mesmerising to watch as he was to listen to.

Over the years, Peter Knight (the band's trumpeter and chief composer) has become increasingly interested in odd metres and overlapping rhythmic patterns, and Tuesday's program included tunes with as many as three concurrent time signatures. Yet the agile rhythm section (bassist Howard Cairns, drummer Raj Jayaweera and percussionist Ray Pereira) managed to make even the most complex metric combinations sound utterly seductive, as the horn players (Knight and saxophonist Paul Williamson) carved a sure-footed path across each undulating landscape.

The Weekend Australian June 2010
Rating: * * * * 1/2
“Pushing the Asian/Australian jazz concept even further... Much of this successful exploration is due to
leader/trumpeter Peter Knight’s multi-faceted compositions and the stunning versatility of Anh Nguyen’s
contributions on various Vietnamese instruments and modified guitar.”

#5 in Top Ten Jazz Albums 2010 Sunday Herald Sun


The Age Green Guide Rating * * * *

“This is a release that's distinctly Australian and very much a statement about the meeting of cultures in Melbourne. The band, headed by trumpeter Peter Knight, creates an exciting blend that reflects a multicultural hub of Vietnamese, African and jazz sounds across a repertoire written by the band members... Jazz came from a blend of African and European cultures and Knight's work here is very much in the same spirit.”

The Herald Sun Rating * * * *

“This superb third album is an intricate exploration of how Asian themes can seamlessly mesh with jazz grooves building stories through complex, layered rhythmic patterns and tonally rich horn overlays.”

Extempore

"The Effects of Weather merges the haunting tones of traditional Vietnamese instrumentation and the timeless textures and rhythms of West Africa with the strong traditions of theme and melody in Western jazz to create something that is bold and different. It is a true departure from ‘traditional jazz’ and the result is not only fresh and instantly likable, but has the potential to become a modern classic."

Rhythms Magazine

"The secret to Way Out West's success is their distinctive sound, blending jazz elements with traditional Vietnamese stringed instruments and West African percussion instruments and rhythms... good as the contributions from each player are the sum of the parts is even more impressive."

The Sunday Age September 16th 2007, Derek Leather
Rating * * * *

Way Out West put Footscray on the musical map with its first release Footscray Station and its exotic fusion of the heritages of local musicians. Anh Nguyen on guitar and the Vietnamese strings of the dan bau and dan tranh, trumpeter Peter Knight, Paul Williamson on saxophones, bassist Howard Cairns and percussionist Ray Pereira follow their musical compass over even broader horizons on Old Grooves for New Streets. Nguyen still creates mystical moods of South-East Asia, but goes beyond on some tunes with deep bass lines and changing drum patterns that conjure up North Africa and the Mediterranean, as Knight and Williamson twist the music to and fro out front. There is also an off kilter swaggering funk and solemn hymn-like tunes where the horns build tension until Williamson closes on a keening arc towards the stratosphere.

Laurence Donahue-Greene Editor All About Jazz New York

“Certainly a candidate for Best Release of the Year - I hope lots of ears hear this one!”

Owen McKern RRR

“It's an absolute stunner - one of the really fine new releases I've heard this year.”

Peter Jordan Editor Jazz Australia

“Eschews travel book exotica in favour of an approach that integrates the instruments into a cohesive whole.”


Included in “Top 10 CDs of 2007” Sunday Herald Sun


ABC Limelight Magazine October 2007, Peter Wockner
Rating * * * * *

A mixed marriage of unprecedented success! While the thought of fusing African and Vietnamese music may appear unusual, the result is one of the most compelling releases of 2007. Trumpeter Peter Knight is a renowned innovative composer. Anh Nguyen brings the fleeting street sounds of Vietnam using a modified electric guitar and multi-stringed dan tranh. Dave Beck, Howard Cairns and Ray Pereira are at one with the rhythms, the latter especially textural when raising the African grooves to danceable levels. But their grooves are corralled by the underlying focus on interaction and expression through the horns of Knight and Paul Williamson.


The Australian November 2007, John McBeath

Rating  * * * * 1/2

THE west here refers to Melbourne's western suburbs, illustrated by the first track, Postcard from Footscray, which opens with Asian effects: gongs and Anh Nguyen's dan tranh, a type of Vietnamese zither. After this languid, rippling-water beginning, underscored by echoes of industrialism, the insistent rhythm of a printing press emerges, dissolving into Howard Cairns' resonant bass line. Nguyen returns with the dan bau, a single-string Vietnamese instrument, to state a theme, soon elaborated by leader Peter Knight's trumpet and Paul Williamson on saxophone. This album draws on many influences: Vietnamese, African and a dash of the Middle East, all melded into Knight's original grooves, aided by Ray Pereira's percussion and Dave Beck's inspired drumming. Multi-instrumentalist Nguyen is a mainstay, also contributing some fine guitar work. Knight's inventive trumpet is beautifully restrained in a lyrical Aqua Profonda.


The Age, Green Guide August 9th 2007, Leon Gettler

Rating * * * *

Nearly four years ago, Melbourne’s innovative trumpeter Peter Knight was at the forefront of a new band, Way Out West, with the album Footscray Station. Here was an extraordinary cross-cultural mix that could only be Australian. It’s been a long time coming but this latest album is completely different. Just as captivating and cross-cultural with its blending of jazz, Asian and African sounds – Anh Nguyen Dyung playing a modified electric guitar and the Vietnamese instruments dan tranh (a 16-string zither) and dan bau (a one-string zither), with saxophonist Paul Williamson, Howard Cairns on bass and percussion specialist Ray Pereira. Now add drummer Dave Beck. The music also feels much more groove and theme-based. In the beginning, the tension builds beautifully over the texture of the Vietnamese instruments, before sliding into bass groove and drums. Distinctly Asian echoes blend in with a jazz saunter. Same goes for African sound sounds on tracks such as Café Afrique. The striking artwork on the cover from Nicola Loder is a bonus. In an age where so many albums have a sameness about them, this one is a refreshing gem.

Sydney Morning Herald August 4th 2007, Spectrum, John Clare

When a disc features modified electric guitar, dan bau and dan trau (all played by Anh Nguyen Dyung), plus percussion, drum kit, bass, trumpet and saxophones, it is customary to talk about genres colliding and to declare that this is not your standard jazz performance. The real point here is how united in purpose this Melbourne band is, and how beautifully blended.

The Vietnamese instruments lose none of their exotic and compelling synthesis of pining and languor for being set against smoky horn ensembles. The rafts of horn sounds sometimes invoke classic jazz modernism. They also move into their own ringing marches of orientalism, fairly blazing out on the track Aqua Profonda.

Peter Knight's trumpet, Paul Williamson's saxophones and Nguyen's three-string instruments converse with soul and coherence in solos that draw from jazz and exotic vocabularies. This shining disc is the band's second.

Sunday Mail (SA) August 5th 2007, Roger Mitchell

Rating * * * *

In short: Heads in cool directions.

THE expression ``in the groove'' suggests a top jazz performance to be delighted with. It certainly applies to Way Out West's second offering. As with Footscray Station, Asian and African influences are unmistakable but it's as if old grooves - tunes and rhythms with a sense of history - are mapping new territory. And it works.

In compositions by trumpeter Peter Knight and, on three tracks, all these talented musicians, Way Out West creates a changing, layered streetscape that moves and grows, cemented often by rhythm. Anh Nguyen (modified electric guitar, dan bau, dan tranh) and Ray Pereira (percussion) bring sounds from Vietnam and Africa and saxophonist Paul Williamson adds a beautiful solo with Mid-East influence. The result, with Howard Cairns (acoustic bass) and Dave Beck (drum kit and percussion), breaks new ground.

Inpress Magazine September 5th 2007, Tony McMahon

Continues Way Out West’s tradition of a delightful, eclectic mish-mash of delicious sounds.

Praise for 'Footscray Station'( Newmarket 2003)

Limelight (ABC arts and entertainment magazine) March 2004, John Shand

Wonderfully atmospheric… intensely evocative… A treat.

Nominated #7 in top ten CDs of 2003 by the Sunday Herald Sun Arts Magazine

Australian Financial Review October 2003

[Way Out West] has a distinctly Asian flavour, thanks to the bubbling, ethereal sounds of Nguyen's instruments, yet at the same time Knight and Williamson introduce a clear Western touch while Pereira in places takes it all the way to Africa. Like its name, I simply think this captivating mixture is Australian.

Cadence Music Review (New York) March 2004, Nate Doward

A uniquely hybrid form of jazz that makes notable use of Vietnamese traditional instruments... an unusual and beguiling sound.


All about Jazz Live review November 2003, Kenny Weir

Everyone played beautifully right through both sets.
The music was just wonderful

The Bulletin June 2004, Adrian Jackson

The group achieve[s] a satisfyingly cohesive sound… Nguyen gives the group its most distinctive textures, playing traditional Vietnamese harp and zither-like instruments on most tracks, but all hands contribute some really thoughtful work.

Sydney Morning Herald October 25th 2003, John Clare

That these exotic sounds blend so well with jazz ensembles, beautifully harmonised and played, is a mysterious Melbourne alchemy… Jazz that lasts, for the most part integrates improvisation and composition organically; this disc is a very appealing example.


Sunday Herald Sun October 2003, Kenny Weir

The supple seamless vibes they produce easily transcend any glib notions of multicultural kitsch, the album delivering moments of shimmering beauty that have as much to do with ambient grooves as jazz.

Music Forum February 2004, Gavin Franklin

As an attempt to integrate instruments and systems of organisation from different musical cultures, [Footscray Station] is as near to successful as any I have heard during a lifetime of listening to sounds from varied sources.

Music Australia Guide October 2003, Steve Robertson

If you still need evidence that the way forward for jazz is to draw on world music for fresh ideas then this album should convince you.

The Age October 30th 2003, Leon Gettler

Full of the sounds and colours that you get at a train station, with the comings and goings and meetings of cultures and musical genres.

Jazz Scene (Adelaide) April 2003, Pam Brow

Both innovative and exciting, gentle and evocative thanks to the use of three traditional Vietnamese instruments… The creative contribution of everyone involved in this CD is outstanding. This journey of exploration and experimentation is soulful and inspiring reflecting the desire to recreate the stimulating cultural mix of Melbourne’s inner Western suburbs. Some truly Australian jazz.