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Will Vinson: Planted and Growing in New York

By Published: December 13, 2010
He raised eyebrows as a polished alto player with a burning style highlighted by a quicksilver flow of ideas that are elaborate, but so fluid that their apparent ease belies their intricacy. While he's carved out strong credentials, being called for many projects, his own career seems assured, on the strength of consistently exceptional recordings.

Two were released in 2010: a live session, The World Through My Shoes (Nineteen Eight Records), and a studio session, Stockholm Syndrome (Criss Cross). The live recording is a quartet setting featuring longtime colleague, Lund, on guitar. The studio outing also features Lund, as well as Parks on piano.

Vinson explains that his second album, Promises (Nineteen Eight Records), came in 2008, but was recorded two years earlier. So in 2009, he felt it was time for a new recording. At that time, Freddy's Backroom in Brooklyn, a place for live music where Vinson had, in previous years, run jam sessions, was about to close. "It felt like the end of an era that needed to be commemorated, in a way," he notes. "The back room sounds really good, so I knew it was going to be easy to record. I did a live record—included non-originals on record for the first time, and also four new originals. The thought just came to me, and we just did it. It didn't require a lot of preparation.

"In the meantime, I was still feeling like I wanted to do a studio record." Criss Cross approached him, while he was on tour in the Netherlands, about doing an album. "The timing worked out that I ended up putting out two records in the space of a few months (May and September). It isn't necessarily the normal thing to do, but it just worked out that way. ... That was done on very short notice, too. I would say, between the time I conceived of the first one and recorded the second was about seven months, so that all happened pretty fast. If they'd both been studio records, it might have been a bit weird to put them out together. But the live thing is a different vibe. I'm happy with the way both of them came out. I just happened to be on a bit of a writing spurt, so I had enough material."

The recordings benefit not only from outstanding musicians and the strong direction of the leader and his blazing horn, but also from Vinson's strong writing. The title cut of the live disk is an example: a floating melodic line that's a good vehicle for Vinson's explorations. Lund is particularly adept at putting forth crisp, concise flowing lines throughout. The variety in Vinson's writing that appears on the studio disk benefits from the drumming of Kendrick Scott, who has a way of breathing a certain kind of multi- rhythmic life into any composition with his singular organic, musical style. Parks and Lund are up to the composer's challenge, as well as up to Vinson's playing. They are all remarkably on the same page, and the united creativity of each is evident. A change of pace is the ballad "You Won't Forget Me," performed exquisitely by only Vinson, and Lund playing acoustic guitar. Vinson gets a chance to exhibit a luscious tone, and the harmonic interplay is a delight.

"Aaron I've known since Manhattan School of Music, when he was 16," notes Vinson. "I've known him for 10 or 11 years. Lage, I met him through Ingrid Jensen. I decided pretty much right away that this was someone I wanted to play with a lot. I've probably played more with him than anybody else over the last six or seven years. For my money, he's one of the best musicians I know. He's got so much of what I like. I like his approach to music. I like his melodic concept. I love his harmonic concept and his sound and all the rest of it. A bit like me and Aaron, but probably even more so, we have grown together a lot and been a significant factor in each others' developing careers and developing musicianship."

Of Stockholm, Vinson says, "It was done very quickly. ... I had about two months' notice. Got the guys together. Amazingly enough, they were all available. I finished writing the music, rehearsed it, did a couple of gigs, went into the studio and did it. So it's very fresh. Slightly rough around the edges, but exactly the way I like it. Everybody plays amazingly on that record. It amazes me, the way everybody sounds."

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