Paul Wertico, John Helliwell Project: The Bari Session

Former Pat Metheny drummer and his longstanding saxophonist colleague play an empathetic mix of jazz, blues and prog-rock


Such is the connection between the musicians on The Bari Session that every track was a first take and the whole thing was recorded in one day. Innovative, driving and propelled by the dynamic drumming of Paul Wertico, the album is a mix of jazz, blues and dreamy prog-rock.

Circular Motion opens the proceedings with a Pink Floyd-like melody drifting in. Wertico steps up the pace with a solo on Toms For Talia and by the time we get to It Seemed That Life Was So Wonderful, the band is on full throttle with a delicious blues that brings Helliwell’s tenor and Melilupi’s guitar to the foreground, with that prog-rock vibe still very much in evidence. A standout track.

Train Bossa begins with swirling explorations of the main theme by the quartet and then settles to a beautifully controlled bossa that builds and builds. Helliwell opens the beautifully mellow What Would The World Be with enquiring lines on tenor, with the melody then being developed by Melilupi, offering yet another example of just how versatile this group can be across material of different moods and shades.

Tuning Song, a bonus track, closes this fine album with washes of sound that returns the album to the slightly psychedelic mood of the opener. Wertico and Scaglia dance around in the background on drums and bass before the main theme builds to a shimmering finish.

The players have collaborated since 2008, so there is real chemistry in an album full of diversity and superb playing. Hugely enjoyable.

Circular Motion; Toms For Talia; Cowboys And Africans; It Seemed That Life Was So Wonderful; Train Bossa; What Would The World Be; Tuning Song (44.41)
Wertico (d); Helliwell (ts); Raimondo Melilupi (elg); Gianmarco Scaglia (b). Bari, 6 August 2019.
Challenge CR73529