Discover tonight in the light of darkness: Jazz opens the doors of imagination

“Retroreflector” album cover. Design by B-Side Graphics

Andrew Trim. Courtesy Andrew Murray Triim

Concert Notice:

Retroreflector (Andrew Murray Trim), and Hanging Hearts will perform tonight (Tuesday, September 20), starting at 8 PM, at The Cactus Club, 2496 S. Wentworth Ave. in Milwaukee’s Bayview neighborhood. 



Hear ye, hear ye!

Discover tonight in the light of darkness: Jazz opens the doors of imagination: Jazz opens the doors of imagination. This is the night to lay bare the lifeblood of possibility dwelling within the fecund womb of two extraordinarily creative bands, Retroreflector and Hanging Hearts. They’re two of the most audaciously adventurous “jazz” groups in the Midwest. I quotationally modify the word jazz because, as capacious as the term is, these two band seep into it’s vast realm from their very own secret inlets, deeply blessed in shadows and substrata. yet capable of virtual starbursts and meteor showers.

I have written about Retroreflector as an album title under the guise of Milwaukee-based guitarist-composer Andrew Murray Trim. Here is that review:

Guitarist Andrew Trim reaches for the moon on “Retroreflector”

But now the Retroflector term has become nominal. And who, or what, is the name retrospectively reflecting? The entity that rises most immediately  to mind is WEATHER REPORT, perhaps the most celebrated and exploratory and maybe among the funkiest jazz-fusion band of the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s: Weather Report. That may seem incrongruous given that that historical band did not include a guitar — this band’s leader’s primary axe.

Also what certainly distinguishes Hanging Hearts from any presumption of Weather Reports vast realm is that the former group’s saxophonist, Chris Weller, primarily plays tenor, whereas Wayne Shorter, who made his name as a tenor saxophonist and astonishingly gifted composer, played primarily soprano saxophone in the group co-founded and led with keyboardist-composer Joe Zawinul.

Okay. I am not suggesting that either of these bands is nearly as accomplished as Weather Report, given that group’s longevity and profuse and consistent acclaim. Rather. these bands seem to possess the uncanny blend of some of the myriad aspects that made that legendry group’s music magic, as much as just about anything.

And after listening to some of their music, one might make the slippery generalization that Hanging Hearts is a saxophonist’s band (including a keyboardist and drummer) whereas Retroreflector is not quite as explicitly and obviously a guitarist’s band. (Geographically, both bands are Chicago-based.)

Hanging Hearts (L-R), Chris Weller, saxophone; Quin Kirchner, drums; Cole DeGenova, keyboards. 

Hanging Hearts most recent album cover.

Weather Report, by contrast, was a diaphanous amalgam of, at its best, democratic collective improvisation. That was the overall impression of their self-titled first album in 1973, and they continued in that vein until the band began latching onto funk grooves (their third album included, they claim, the first-ever recoded hip-hop rhythm and rap) which simplified their music, by laying down repeated bass patterns and ostinatos, upon which other players jammed. That said, I think these two Chicago bands strive for such ideals.

I won’t go into further detail because perhaps the most important thing at this late date is to make your plans to catch these group’s tonight, if possible, although I do recommend you take a look at my above-posted review of the album Retroreflector.

I just tend to doubt that you will be disappointed if you are open to courageous leaps off the cliff, into the virtual arms of atmosphere.

See you at tonight at The Cactus Club!




Guitarist Andrew Trim reaches for the moon on “Retroreflector”

Album cover courtesy

Review: Andrew Trim Retroreflector (Float Free)

Andrew Trim will perform at an album release event, at 7 p.m. July 27, Anodyne Coffee Roasters, 224 West Bruce Street, Milwaukee, WI 53204. 

With his somewhat curious album title, Retroreflector, one wonders what guitarist Andrew Trim is reflecting on retrospectively. The slyly infectious groove his quartet lays down on the title tune leads you Pied Piper-like behind textural footsteps sketched out with deftly articulated power chords.

To me, this backwards-glancing album title lands upon Hendrix, as in “slight return,” a la “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” the coda to his masterpiece Electric Ladyland. Yet Trim is not leaning too heavily on the Hendrix mystique; rather he’s beginning to carve out his own space inhabited by both pugnacious power chording and poetry.

Speaking of poetry, the second tune, “Swirl,” evoked for me one of my favorite poems, Herman Melville’s “Shiloh,” a politically-pointed reflection on a graveyard of perpetually sleeping Civil War soldiers. Trim endows his more ambiguous subject matter with a certain grace, even if that poem was never specifically associated. A tentative melancholy is buoyed by lyrical wonder. “Shiloh” the poem almost sneaks up on its tragedy with the tender attentiveness: skimming lightly, wheeling still/ the swallows fly low/space over the field and clouded days, the force field of Shiloh –/ over the field were April rain/ Solaced the parched ones stretched in pain…” Melville deftly evokes the men on death’s doorstep. Trim’s theme seems to melt in the air as it picks out atmospheric spots, as if circling bird paths. Then guest guitarist Dave Miller injects a rough counterpoint, evoking the dire conflict contained in each stolen life six feet under – “… Through the pause of night/ that followed the Sunday fight/ around the church of Shiloh –/ the church so lone, the log-built one, / that echoed to many a parting groan…” The poem quickly inserts a painfully poignant statement about the politics of the war between brethren.

I hope other listeners find enough in Trim’s artistry to pursue this, if not other poetic or artistic analogues. This veteran Milwaukee guitarist as developed into one of the most original instrumental voices in Milwaukee, one deeply infused with a latter-day, anti-sainthood of psychedelia.

Guitarist-composer Andrew Trim. Courtesy

And throughout, I detect a wide range of possible other influences, perhaps most striking Bill Frisell’s haunted pastoral jazz style, on “Lullabye.” The limpid, arcane melody sounds like a question sung out loud, in pure sound. On “Eclipse Plans” I sense some of Jeff Beck’s exquisitely executed guitar distortion. Elsewhere, consider Pat Metheny’s bright-beaming electronica or, by contrast, the driven Black-rock of the guitar-led trio Harriet Tubman. Such associations reflect the impressive range of Trim’s sonic vocabulary.

Also, in ensemble, Retroreflector is sustained superbly by Trim’s bandmates: Dan Pierson on keyboards and synthesizers, Barry Paul Clark on bass, and Nick Lang on drums.

Ultimately Trim’s exploratory work, for its tough harmonic brio, also reaches for his own brand of beauty, that which dwells in the deep cavern between raw, unmined sound and sunlit silhouettes.


This review was originally published in slightly shorter form, in The Shepherd Express, here:

Andrew Trim recently posted a meme on Facebook (below) which aptly characterizes his venture on Retroreflector: “Reach for the moon: A door opens into a smaller room.”

I suspect something extraordinary, perhaps even sacred, may dwell in that enclosure. Such are the revelations of committed creativity.Image