How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Iowa-based saxophonist and educator Joel Vanderheyden assimilates various genres into a distinct group sound, performing with members of the underground jazz group known as Koplant_No on his debut release. Complete with jazz-fusion and jazz-rock overtones, spiced with loops, samples and effects, the program projects a modicum of diversity and jazz-framed exploration. It all makes for a cunning series of polytonal movements and settings.
The ensemble's blustery and at times, hard-hitting work-ethic is devised on popping backbeats, synth driven themes and Vanderheyden's moody yet often powerful sax lines. They venture into bop and swing territory via these rather investigative compositions, occasionally hued with a driving wall of sound amid ethereal overtones. Regardless, the musicians dish out a craftily blended musical portraiture throughout various cadences, where Vanderheyden and trumpeter Brian Lewis Smith, the latter, responsible for laptop manipulations and effects, make for a potent frontline. And guitarist Steve Grismore provides an edge due to his hearty electric jazz and rock guitar voicings.
The saxophonist commences with a ballad then helps raise the temperature on "Your Medical Eye Patch Leads Me to Believe You Will Be Pillaging and Plundering...Very Soon (Pirate Song)." Smith's echo-tinged choruses conjure up a dark and misty climate during the combo funk and 4/4 gait, heard on the complex "Between Heaven and Hell There is a Drawer of Junk," where the band renders a string of false endings with linear progressions and punchy unison phrasings.
Vanderheyden's freshman album is a curiously interesting engagement. The artists don't overstate or rely heavily on any particular genre other than the core jazz framework, while the leader charges out of the gate with the impetus of a lion on a hunt. He's methodical, savvy and exhibits raw power when the situation demands it.
Track Listing: The Fall of a Superhero; Pees and Deetoo; Complete Life; Gargoyles; Pirate Song; Tanzania Life Project; Between Heaven and Hell There Is a Drawer of Junk; Simple Elegance.
Personnel: Joel Vanderheyden: tenor saxophone; Brian Lewis Smith: trumpet, laptop, effects; Steve Grismore: guitar (1, 2, 4, 6, 8); Tim Daugherty: keyboards (1, 2, 4, 6, 8); Drew Morton: bass; Rob Baner: drums, loops, samples; Brady Schlue: trombone (6); James Dreier: percussion (6).