WeBe3: Reviews

JAZZ REVIEW: Life is a joyous song to WeBe3
By Don Heckman
The Los Angeles Times
November 30, 2007

Vocal trio WeBe3 capped the 2007 season at the Vic in Santa Monica on Wednesday with a stunning performance affirming the premise that no-holds, spontaneous creativity can be both viscerally entertaining and intellectually stimulating.

All three members of the Bay Area group -- Rhiannon, Joey Blake and David Worm -- are veterans of Bobby McFerrin's Voicestra and longtime associates in the challenging task of expanding the vision of what the human voice is capable of, individually and collectively.

The selections were largely improvised. In general, each singer took on basic ensemble responsibilities: Rhiannon mostly singing the lead melodies; Blake providing rich-hued bass lines; Worm offering stunningly effective vocal simulations of a drum set. But that was just the beginning, with each singer also contributing a colorful array of vocal sounds, timbres and sometimes quirky effects to the ensemble's musical palette.

When the first number began, with Blake setting up a grooving bass line and Worm adding propulsive percussion accents, it appeared that the trio's spontaneous improvising would simply consist of free-flying vocals over ostinato foundations. But the WeBe3 singers soon made it clear that they were far too musically sophisticated to fall into such a trap. Shifting rhythmic gears, changing keys, inventing new riff patterns on the fly, breaking suddenly into three-part harmonies, their collective improvising was not just imaginative and swinging, it was also formed with surprisingly cohesive structures.

After a few numbers, the trio was joined by pianist Otmaro Ruiz. Playing with extraordinary subtlety, Ruiz provided colorful carpets of dark, repetitive chording, calypso rhythms and melodic fragments interfacing in utterly compatible fashion with the singers' roving vocals.

At times, Rhiannon or Blake urged the enthusiastic capacity crowd to sing musical phrases -- often two at a time -- with impressive results, expanding the envelope of creativity to embrace the entire room. And it was during those moments -- as well as in the set's final numbers -- that the most vital aspects of WeBe3's performance came fully alive: joy in creativity; joy in life; joy in the song. No wonder Rhiannon concluded the program with the final, affirming phrase: "If I could be a song, I would be perfect."
“These three thrive on improvisation, and the way they inspire each other onstage shows they belong together. Since they met as founding members of Bobby McFerrin’s a cappella orchestra Voicestra fifteen years ago, Rhiannon, Blake and Worm have been torn between exploring their individual muses and coming up with excuses to get back together and do what they do so naturally: just make up chants and vocal rhythm patterns, toss out spontaneous lyrics, and go on that journey of collective exploration into the spiritual unknown that is normally the domain of jazz instrumentalists.”
Larry Kelp, East Bay Express
Berkeley, California
 “….last night's ah-ha moment for me is perhaps at the core of ATWI: you cannot teach anyone to do what you do. what you are doing is teaching us to do what we do as fully and utterly and expansively as possible, to access every skill and genre and training and dream and experience that we've ever had and bring it into the present moment. it blew my mind wide open really." 
Kate Geller-Richards
after hearing WeBE3 live at JAZZHAUS
Freiburg, Germany