Keyed Up

Asher Fulero

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Asher Fulero by Zipporah Lomax

Asher Fulero by Zipporah Lomax

Keyboardist don’t come more versatile or off-handedly fearless than Asher Fulero, an astute student of keyboard history in the recorded musical era that never allows his learned POV to get in the way of playing with feeling and immediacy. A fixture of the West Coast jazz, jam and rock scenes for many years, Fulero, still a young player, has already established himself as one of Matt Butler’s go-to guys for Everyone Orchestra – always a sign of a high quality, open-minded musician – as well as an explorer of electronic music’s new frontiers with Halo Refuser and Surrounded By Ninjas. But these projects only hint at his depths, which folks may sometimes miss because of his general good nature and unassuming approach to his craft. Rather than wave his arms to draw attention to his contributions, Fulero just wades into myriad situations with a smile and gets down to business, a superb collaborator and gracious co-conspirator with oodles of solo stomping magic tucked up his sleeve.

However, Fulero’s ability to blend in and accentuate the positives in his band mates sometimes means that his work doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Thankfully his newest offering, Liminal Rites pick it up (released June 4 and available here), is a solo piano outing that finds Fulero soaring into breathy, gorgeous spaces that showcase all the creativity, natural talent and gig-honed skill living in his hands. While many high-end players have distinctive ticks, Fulero really doesn’t except for an abiding emotional well that he pours into his compositions and performances, and the emotional undertow on this solo album is powerful, a gravity that pulls at the heart and makes eyes well up at times.


On Liminal Rites there is love and dreaming, spirit and struggle, peace and discord, and all together it plays out like an affair without words – wordless because none are needed. Who is the affair with? Could be someone mortal – what else drives songwriters to such passion? – but Liminal Rites also comes across as a conversation with the universe and perhaps God, a descendent of McCoy Tyner’s 60s musings with Coltrane filtered through the genre-cracking atmospherics of George Winston and the limber, lean-in-close ivory dancing of John Hicks and Don Pullen.

It’s the kind of record one puts on when they need to muse and stretch their mind beyond the friction and bustle of the day, an album for sunrises and moon watching, perhaps best enjoyed alone or holding hands with someone dear who’s comfortable listening and absorbing without needing to intrude with language and digressions. It is incredibly beautiful and as naked a presentation of Fulero’s many gifts as a musician and composer as anything in his ever-expanding catalog. For the Impound’s tastes, we think it’s the best album he’s ever made – a revelation of just how bloody good this guy is at what he does.

Here’s what Asher had to the Impound’s keyboardist inquiry.

Name: Asher Fulero
Band(s): Halo Refuser, The Floydian Slips, Fulero Prescott & West.
Previously/Occasionally/Additionally: Scott Law Band, The Everyone Orchestra, Fulero/Lehe Band, Surrounded By Ninjas, The Goodfoot All-Stars, Habaneros, Scott Pemberton Band, Jah Levi & The Higher Reasoning, Shimshai & Seraphim Sound, Three For Madness, many more.

Favorite keyboard? Why?
Easily the Nord Stage 88. It’s like having a stage full of amazing keyboards, amps, and effects all in one little box, with all the immediate access, great tone, and controllability I could think of. I’m extremely fortunate to have endorsements with Nord as well with synth legends Moog Music. Their line of Phatty synths is as much a game changer these days as the Minimoog was in the early days of synthesis, though overall I guess the Nord would be my desert island keyboard (albeit with solar power generator and nice amplification, and we’ll say moisture protection) since it just does SO darn much SO very well.
Tastiest keyboardist – i.e. not just soloing but also overall playing – currently working?
I’d be the wrong person to ask this question as I tend to listen to producers and songwriters rather than players. That being said, I’ve enjoyed some really great playing by the amazing cast of the Keyboard Summit that I do in Portland each year. If you’re looking for keyboardists to check out, the Portland scene has a BUNCH of young guns that both push me to improve my own playing and also to expand into other areas of music as the competition is so relentless!

A few to check out:

-Ben Darwish (Commotion, Morning Ritual, Damian Erskine Band)
-Galen Clark (Trio Subtonic)
-Steveland Swatkins (Juno What, Excellent Gentlemen)

Also: Andrew Oliver, Chris Phillips, Carl ‘Solovox’.

A keyboard solo I never get tired of listening to is…
John Medeski’s piano solo in “Last Chance To Dance Trance (Perhaps)” from MMW’s Friday Afternoon In The Universe. Also, Tony Banks’ synth solos in “Riding The Scree” from Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Shaun Martin’s Moog solo from Snarky Puppy’s “Thing Of Gold,” and all of Keith Jarrett’s Koln Concert.
Preferred brand of keys? Why?
See answer #1!
Thelonius Monk, Bernie Worrell or Nicky Hopkins– which one gives you the biggest keyboard boner? What makes them SO sweet?
I see where you’re going with this question, but I’d have to choose Joe Zawinul, Richard Wright, and Jean Michele Jarre instead…and perhaps add in Tony Banks, Chuck Leavell, and John Medeski.
One lesser known keyboardist folks should check out is…
See #2. Also: Bugge Wesseltoft = amazing. Also, Wayne Horvitz, Joe Doria, Joey Porter…
What aspect of being a keyboardist always makes you happy?
Though I’ve been getting more into singing lately, being a keyboardist offers a wealth of possibilities for tone (anything you can think of) and role playing (rhythm, melody, texture, color, samples, layering). I enjoy keeping the variety as wide as possible in my world, and keyboard is a fantastic tool in nearly all styles of music (heavy metal and string bands notwithstanding).