Vorcza Showcase Lounge/Higher Ground
South Burlington, Vermont
December 9, 2005
There was a festive air in the Showcase Lounge at Higher Ground South Burlington VT on Friday December 9th and it wasn't all due to the Christmas season or the fact it was a weekend night.
Vermont's Vorcza have made a career of flying under the radar but with the release of their new self-distributed studio album, Corner of the Morning, this may be about to change. Delayed for some time due to keyboardist Ray Paczkowski's residency in Trey Anastasio's band, the threesome, also including drummer Gabe Jarrett and bassist/ composer Robinson Morse, have recommitted themselves to Vorcza and, based on the two seamless sets they played this night, the commitment shows.
And it's clearly a commitment to chemistry because, unless the trio woodshedded ever so assiduously from the time Paczkowski returned from the road late in the week, there were no signs of rust. Quite the contrary: though there were two separate sets, with few truly extended selections played, there was an utterly seamless quality to the music of Vorcza this night.
Forget the fatuous and superficial comparisons to Medeski Martin & Wood. Based largely on instrumental line-up (which this night was noticeably missing much acoustic piano), Vorcza have more in common with another magnificent fusion band Weather Report, if not exactly in the way they sound, then at least in the sense of how keyboardist/composer Josef Zawinul once described that group's approach: "We always solo and we never solo.
Corner of the Morning doesn't exactly give lie to that approach, and all the intuitive communication that implies, but you would not get that same sense as you would from the band's first studio album, 2002's Maximalist. Or even from previous times seeing Vorcza: they change, and invariably improve, each time around and this wintry night, the trade-offs between the three were thrilling to catch.
Playing the main melodic instruments, Pazckowski is understandably up front most of the time (especially so on the three tunes he sang including the title song from the new album), but you can tell when the band hits high gear because all three assume parallel paths of equal prominence. At such junctures, Morse assumes the focal point, at least momentarily, and almost imperceptibly. The strength and fluid mobility he displays on the studio recording "Standard Stick a mere shadow of what he showed at Higher Ground; he took a solo on standup bass during the second set that launched the band into the home stretch.
Drummer Jarrett (son of reknowned jazz pianist Keith) is likewise an almost equal contributor to the sound of Vorcza, his technical expertise, almost as formal in approach as Morse's, more often than not functioning in an almost constant call and response with the chunky staccato of the keyboards (especially when Paczkowski is using the clavinet). There are those moments, however, when, usually in the wake of a wave of Hammond organ, Jarrett's stickwork becomes blinding in the way he parses the rhythm, all the while never losing the beat of the tune.
Vorcza doesn't exactly sound constricted on Corner of the Morning, even though a handful of cuts boast vocals. But the dozen tracks, even including the covers of Eric Dolphy (is "Hat and Beard a tribute to Vorcza's own?)and Sun Ra ("A Call for All Demons"), nevertheless resemble snapshots rather than the streaming audio of the live concert.
The appearance of Trey Anastasio stands out all the more in contrast to the relative languor that permeates Corner of the Morning: on "f/t he brings things to a fever pitch. It's debatable whether the ex-Phish guitarist would've contributed more effectively Friday night live than Greg Matses though, because his understated fills and sure rhythm parts found their own level and never became intrusive.
Despite the fact Vorcza didn't make much more than passing mention of the release of the new CD, that's not due to any diffidence on their part. Ray Paczkowski's repartee is almost humble to a fault, in part perhaps because, this night at least, the audience in house was fully devoted to Vorcza. But's he's good-natured too because this band radiates a quiet confidence in the music they play. Why else put their efforts on hold for so long, then return to mutual fold as if they never left?
Visit Vorcza on the web.
Photo Credit Rob Grego