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More a suite than a song, “Catchin’ Hell” showcases musician/producer Ty Showers at his spontaneous, multi-layered best. Jazz fusion fans will find much to dig into here.
The tune clocks in at 6:07, making it one of the longest of the 14 tracks on Ty’s March 2013 release, Thunder Showers. With one exception—an extended keyboard/percussion recursion that strips the shifting rhythms of the opening theme down to their essence—the individual movements of the suite leap quickly from one to the next, with a couple of bold silences dividing early sections. Few composers are more comfortable or cunning with silence than Ty Showers.
The complex opening theme will have fusion buffs counting beats, trying to figure out time signatures. The first half of the tune is dominated by alternating measures of 4/4 and 5/4, but polyrhythmic percussion and drum samples add surprising accents everywhere you look. By “look,” I mean “listen,” of course, but it’s worth noting that Taliferro’s signature kaleidoscopic video style offers plenty of visual delights, including some surreal object-based animation at around the four-minute mark. Bring your own mood enhancers and watch it on YouTube. Go full screen for a miniature 2001: A Space Odyssey stargate experience.
Midway through, a free-form synth-flute takes flight—and it’s to the artist’s credit that the “jazz flute” cliché often disparaged in pop culture (Ron Burgundy, anyone?) is nowhere to be heard. We know it’s a keyboard; we just don’t know where it’s going—but it takes us, ultimately, back to polyrhythm-town. If you thought the opening half of the song was complex, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet.
One mark of musical artistry is that listeners often wonder, “How was this done?” You may ask yourself that and other questions before “Catchin’ Hell” answers with a thematic reprise that creates a satisfying full circle. Quite a piece of work from this mature master of MIDI, mixing, and…that’s all the alliteration I have, unless we simply settle for music.
Why settle for anything less? Music is what Ty Showers is about, from beginning to end. When asked about his influences, the first name out of his mouth is Jean-Luc Ponty (and you’ll hear that influence clearly in the synth-violin melody, early and late). There are nods to other jazz, R&B, and funk musicians in Ty’s work, but in the end, he’s carving out his own niche with some very sharp tools.
Lean into this adventurous music—again, the video really sets it off—and it will reward your attention through multiple listenings. “Catchin’ Hell” was made in fusion heaven.