Lyle Workman | Uncommon Measures Review
Ace session guitarist Lyle Workman is releasing a new project titled Uncommon Measures. Workman’s studio, sideman, and film composing success were augmented by three well-received solo albums in the ’90s and early 2000s. However, with all that success, he had to put his own artistic visions on the backburner. “I absolutely love all the work I get to do with other artists and filmmakers,” he explains, “but sometimes you need to articulate your own thoughts and feelings as a writer, too. There’s a singular satisfaction that comes from creating something that’s a pure expression of yourself.” Workman began writing the material for Uncommon Measures and assembled an all-star band of core players; drummers Vinnie Colaiuta (Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa) and Matt Chamberlain (Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen) along with bassist Tim Lefebvre (David Bowie, Wayne Krantz) and pedal steel wizard Greg Leisz (Eric Clapton, Jackson Browne,) among other A-Listers. Workman then started creating orchestral arrangements with John Ashton Thomas, the orchestrator extraordinaire behind films like Black Panther and Captain Marvel. When it came time to record the Orchestra, Thomas cherry-picked 63 of London’s finest players and gathered them at Abbey Road for nine-and-a-half hours of pure magic. The session was a “pinch me” moment for Workman, both as a kid who grew up obsessed with The Beatles and as a composer finally seeing his vision come to life. The result is the magic heard on Uncommon Measures.
“North Star” begins the music journey with an intoxicating compound rhythm and intricate lines surrounding Workman’s stunning slide guitar work. His intonation and feel with the slide are impressive. The intricate lines are beautifully orchestrated with a balance of colors and weight to give the line impact. Workman’s technique is immaculate, and his negotiation of the wide intervals are flawless. The various techniques and different guitar Workman uses also give the song’s flow and colors much depth. Colaiuta’s drumming creates a pocket that the musicians flourish over. Jeff Babko turns in a beautiful keyboard solo. The Orchestra plays superbly, with a balanced sound. Workman’s solo is a mixture of techniques, impeccable right-hand picking, and a melodic building structure based on the theme developed throughout the song. The song has multiple feel changes, tempos, and levels of intensity. Workman’s chordal playing to the climax again shows his effortless technique and command of the guitar. Outstanding playing and writing throughout this one!
“Noble Savage” has a beautiful jazz fusion feel with Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums and Sam Wilkes on bass developing the rhythmic pad. The intricate rhythmic hits are answered by bluesy riffs. Again, Workman has a vast array of techniques in his guitar arsenal, from hybrid picking to well-executed alternate picking. The song features stunning orchestra sounds but still gives ample space for Workman’s solo. This is jazz fusion at its best. The orchestration is complimentary to Workman’s guitar tone, and the articulations are matched between the sections and Workman. John Ashton Thomas conducting the Orchestra captures Workman’s style and energy in his playing. This is a modern-day marriage of fusion and classical that will appeal to a broad audience.
Uncommon Measures has a range of influences with remarkable consistency and clarity across all the presented styles and sounds. Workman never seems far from home, regardless of complexity, and his vision of shape and dynamics through these pieces (through his writing and playing) is stunning. The musicians that bring each track to life is a profound statement of musicality. Uncommon Measures is a monumental piece of art, whether taken at a glance or studied at the nano level. Workman’s writing is authentic, clear, and a survey of daring sounds and playing. Uncommon Measures is deep mutual respect between the musicians, but more importantly, the music is filled with much joy.
February 19, 2021
Blue Canoe Records