The Westerlies (“prevailing winds from the West to the East”) are a New York-based brass quartet comprised of four friends from Seattle, Washington: Riley Mulherkar and Zubin Hensler on trumpet, and Andy Clausen and Willem de Koch on trombone.
The Westerlies re-imagine the chamber music experience through boldly personal performance, recording, collaboration, education, and outreach. Since their inception in 2011, they have cultivated a new brass quartet repertoire featuring over fifty original compositions as well as adaptations of Ives, Ellington, Bartok, Ligeti, Stephen Foster and numerous traditionals. Their music exudes the warmth of their longstanding friendships, and reflects the broad interests of its members.
The Westerlies navigate a wide array of venues with the precision of a string quartet, the audacity of a rock band, and the charm of a family folk ensemble. The Westerlies have performed at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at University of Maryland, The Festival of New Trumpet Music, Juilliard in Aiken Festival, The Juilliard School, Music in the Mountains (Durango, CO), the Vancouver Jazz Festival, Constellation Chicago, the Seattle Art Museum and Earshot Jazz Festival. Active collaborators, they have worked with artists in a variety of disciplines, including Vieux Farke Toure, Dave Douglas, Bill Frisell, visual artist David Foarde, Choreographer Garth Johnson, and Juilliard Dance. Their debut album,Wish The Children Would Come On Home: The Music of Wayne Horivtz, was released on Songlines Recordings in May 2014, and was immediately met with praise:
“One of the more remarkable albums to cross my path this spring... an impressive feat from almost any angle... Take note of these players. You’ll be hearing more from them soon.” — Nate Chinen, Jazz Times
“The Westerlies play this music clean as a whistle, with attention to detail born of long rehearsals. And they infuse the lyrical passages with deep feeling... The Westerlies represent a breed of musicians rare when Wayne Horvitz was coming up, skilled interpreters who are also adept improvisers. With such versatile and well-equipped performers around, composers can expand their reach and they may all wind up in places they might not have found on their own.” — Kevin Whitehead, Fresh Air (NPR)
Active educators, the Westerlies seek to engage the performers and audience members of the future through innovative workshops that emphasize improvisation as a means to foster better communication and listening skills. They are currently in pre-production of their sophomore album, featuring original music in collaboration with multi Grammy-winning producer Jesse Lewis (L.A. Phil., Silk Road Ensemble, Roomful of Teeth, Brooklyn Rider), to be released spring 2016.
Riley Mulherkar has been recognized as a “smart young trumpet player” (The New York Times) and praised by The Wall Street Journal as a “youngster to keep an eye on.” Born and raised in Seattle, Riley moved to New York in 2010 to study at The Juilliard School, where he completed his Bachelor’s Degree in 2014 and his Master’s in 2015, receiving the Knowles Prize for Jazz and the Peter Mennin Prize for outstanding achievement and leadership in music. He is also an inaugural recipient of Juilliard’s Marks Fellowship. In 2011, Riley was named a “rising jazz artist” by Wynton Marsalis in JET Magazine, and in 2014 was the first recipient of the Laurie Frink Career Grant at the Festival of New Trumpet Music.
Riley has performed at the Umbria Jazz Festival, Jazz à Vienne, and Carnegie Hall, and has shared the stage with Marsalis, Leonard Slatkin, and Dave Douglas, among others. Riley is a founding member of The Westerlies, a new music brass quartet that has premiered over 50 original works since its inception in 2011. Their debut album, Wish The Children Would Come On Home, was hailed as “an impressive feat from almost any angle” (Nate Chinen, JazzTimes), and named Debut Album of the Year by NPR Music’s Francis Davis.
Riley is actively engaged in educational outreach. He has taught at Harlem School of the Arts, and founded the music program at stART Osceola, a summer arts intensive in Florida, where he has taught the past five years. He has also facilitated master classes in Brazil, Mexico, and across the United States.
Zubin Hensler is a composer, producer, and trumpeter based in Brooklyn. As a performer he has worked with The Westerlies, Wayne Horvitz, Julia Easterlin, Half Waif, Juilliard Dance, The Brooklyn Nomads, Daniel Rossen, and many other lovely people. He co-produced and performed on the debut album of The Westerlies, which garnered critical acclaim from NPR's Fresh Air and made many critics end of the year lists. He recently composed the score for Crossing Over, a moving documentary which premiered on Univision and Pivot in December 2014. He is currently working as a producer on albums for Vieux Farka Touré, Julia Easterlin, and Half Waif. He also releases and performs computer-based music under the name 'twig twig'. Most Saturdays you can find Zubin selling mushrooms at the McCarren Park farmers market.
Andy Clausen is a New York-based composer, trombonist, producer, and graduate of The Juilliard School. Hailing from Seattle, Clausen relocated to NYC in 2010 where he enjoys a diverse schedule collaborating with filmmakers, folk and blues artists, classical composers, as well as New York's jazz elite. Clausen’s debut album as a composer, “The Wishbone Suite,” was commissioned by King County 4Culture and recorded for Table & Chairs Music in 2011. Nate Chinen praised the project in JazzTimes for its "sprightly chamber-jazz aesthetic, with a palette including accordion and clarinet....Aglow with youthful enthusiasm but also extremely savvy." Clausen is a recipient of the Lotos Foundation Prize for Composition, the Gerald Wilson Prize for Jazz Composition from the Monterey Jazz Festival, and Emerging Artist of The Year Award from Earshot Jazz Festival. In 2014 he was a participant of the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Program at The Kennedy Center, The Ravinia Steans Institute for Jazz, and the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop. He has been commissioned by The New York Times, Bloomberg Television and Blue Chalk Media to create custom music for film. Other current projects include The Andy Clausen Split Stream Big Band, and SHUTTER; a multimedia chamber music project with photojournalists.
A native of Seattle, Washington, Willem de Koch enjoys a diverse career as a performer, improviser, composer, and educator. He is co-founder of the Westerlies, a new music brass quartet. At home in a variety of musical styles, Willem has performed with improvisational music luminaries Wayne Horvitz and Bill Frisell, indie-rock phenomenon Feist, jazz legends Miguel Zenon, Wycliffe Gordon, George Duke, and many others. He has played under the batons of Leonard Slatkin, Kurt Masur, George Manahan, Philippe Entremont, and Gerard Schwarz. Willem received his Bachelor’s Degree in Trombone Performance at the Manhattan School of Music.