01 Sep 2013


By George Halas


While the usual province of the Inquisition is leisurely ruminations on the metaphysical benefits of great music and the make-the-world-a-better-place contributions of the fabulous musicians in the Greater Fox Valley area, this column is dangerously close to breaking news.

To wit:

Loyal Inquisitors may recall a Spanish Inquisition in the past focused on a very talented and highly accomplished trio KWT4, and a later column featured brilliant saxophonist-composer-arranger-producer Tom Washatka. In a move that attests to the genius of The Universe, Washatka has joined KWT4, and the resulting music is somewhere beyond incredible.

“We’ve all been great friends for many years,” said Kevin Wells, bassist and founding member of KWT4. We are huge fans of his (Washatka’s) work as a musician, writer and producer. So, we had always talked of him joining us from the conception of the group.”

“But, due to circumstances, known and unknown, it didn’t come together,” Wells continued. “Looking back in retrospect, it wasn’t the right time. We needed those years to develop and gel as musicians and people.”

“So, ‘good things come to those who wait,’” Wells added. “Now’s the right time.”

Fans of phenomenal music will prove to be the greatest beneficiaries.

Washatka played with KWT4 drummer Tony Taylor in the highly regarded band Fire and Ice, and has known/played with guitarist Tom Theabo for 35 years. In addition to playing in a number of groups together, Washatka and Theabo were the main arrangers of the songs on Janet Planet’s The Bob Dylan Songbook, Volume 1 album.

“I share a long history with these guys, on and off the bandstand,” Washatka said. “There’s such a depth of experience and variety of music–funk, R&B and jazz–this band can cover it all. So, when the opportunity presented itself, it was a no brainer.”

The band oozes chemistry while performing, and it is impossible to miss that they are having a great time.

“Well, Tom’s family, meaning he understands who we are, musically–our strengths and weaknesses–so there are no egos. It’s all about making music,” Wells said. “There’s no growing pain or awkward polite stages of the relationship. So it can be difficult, but it’s always fun.”

The music is a logical extension of the R&B-blues-funk-flavored jazz that is KWT4’s trademark.

“It’s not really different, it’s expanded,” Wells explained. “We all have a love for jazz in all its forms. The possibilities, because of instrumentation and musicianship, are limitless.”

“The direction hasn’t changed,” he added, “and it’s still smokin’!”

“I really enjoy playing so many styles and playing them well.  There aren’t many bands around that can do that,” Washatka said. “I’m contributing original tunes, which is something I haven’t done in a long time. I have a lot of tunes I want to bring to the band.  I’m also bringing out my electronic rig. I haven’t had the chance to do that since the late 1990’s. The variety keeps things interesting.”

“Everyone brings tune ideas to the band,” Washatka added.  “Each a bit different, which continues to add to the diversity of the music.  The direction will be an evolution but always fresh.  Some tunes will stay in rotation, and others will be replaced, but they will all be tunes everyone’s excited about playing.”

The actual breaking news is that, as you read this, KWT4 featuring Tom Washatka is releasing its first CD, Band-Box. It opens with a Washatka composition entitled “Attaboy.” Not only will the band be excited about playing it live, music fans will be excited to hear it.

“One of the most beautiful things about jazz is its history and the journey taken by the musicians, be they Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Miles, etc.,” Wells said. “There’s a ton of great jazz history in Oshkosh and the Fox Valley. I’m very happy to be in the company of musicians who helped make it. It’s a great journey.”