The Westerlies, Move


The Westerlies, Move

Westerlies Records, March 2023


Move, the latest release by Seattle-born, Brooklyn-based brass quartet The Westerlies, takes a playful yet technically complex approach to horn instrumentation. Each piece explores the incredible skills of Riley Mulherkar and Chloe Rowlands on trumpet, and Andy Clausen and Willem de Koch on trombone. Weaving together a repertoire of piano and string compositions with their own original pieces, the group moves through the six-song record with a determined sense of exploration and innovation. From middle school band in Seattle Public Schools to Juilliard to appearances in renowned chamber orchestras, The Westerlies have leaned on their shared experience and eagerness to resist convention to pioneer new brass techniques. 

The album’s title piece, composed in 2017 by Nico Muhly, was written for a solo piano before being translated into brass by The Westerlies. In their arrangement of the piece, the group describes each musician as, “acting with the independence of a single finger on a piano key, but with the greater cohesion of one hand.” Toying with the brightness of their horns, “Move” introduces an air of eager curiosity. Its dynamic syncopation brings the listener to a conscious alertness, contrasting the more pensive grandiose of the piano arrangement. 

Framed as the centerpiece of the record, the reinterpreted “Entr’acte” by Caroline Shaw fully showcases the quartet’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of brass. Mimicking the effects of pizzicato and ponticello techniques in string arrangements, the group uses the rhythm of their breath to create sharp shifts in tempo and dynamics. Initiating varying bursts of sound to give the impression of bowing, the track achieves a stimulating experience of harmonic layering rarely heard in horn quartets. 

The album concludes with “This Is Water” an original piece composed by Clausen, spread out over three tunes. Each track tells an emotional story guided by Clausen’s experience of three waterside locations. “Carmel” introduces the casual mystique of the California beach town, hinting at the unpredictable, but demanding presence of the Pacific Ocean. “Lopez,” a tribute to the island in Washington’s San Juan archipelago, plays into the horn’s unique ability to mirror the natural sounds of the landscape. Leading in with the musicians blowing hollow air through their instruments, the brass impersonates the windy mist of Pacific Northwest waterways. Settling into a melancholy tune, the piece wanders through a somber depth only to lift to a gorgeously enchanting melody. The final track on the album, “Harlem River,” is busy, fast-paced, and personable, blending the dips and sways of jazz trumpet with an overarching orchestral direction. 

The album overall speaks to The Westerlies’ drive to create something completely new in the world of brass, inviting listeners along for the ride.


Posted on

June 26, 2023