Waking Vision Trio: The Ancient Bloom (2001)
Anyone routinely familiar with the world of pop music today knows that the stars are getting younger and younger, yet being presented as somehow older and older; you know, the boy bands, the girl bands, the little brothers and little sisters of the little boys and the little girls in the boy bands and the girl bands-the puppy pound, the kitty pound, the mini-posse, the teensy posse, the microscopic eensy weensy itty bitty posse - with implants!
Luckily, the jazz world has a markedly more respectful and conventional tradition of embracing its talented youth and possibly, an even finer one of mentoring them. Recall that the official beginning of the career of a certain trumpeter who now finds himself at the very pinnacle of the mainstream jazz world was as a teenager in Art Blakey's band.
These diametric contexts of the concept of apprenticeship accentuate why it is so rare for a young jazz band to arrive with a seemingly fully-formed style, one which emphasizes improvisational interplay as an integral part of their compositional approach, one that embraces communication and musical empathy at the very highest levels. The Waking Vision Trio is such a band. With a name meaning precisely what you think it does, living with a perspective of awareness and respect for the natural beauty of life, they have made inspired music on their debut cd, which for me, harkens back to nothing so much as Bright Size Life, Pat Metheny's astounding debut.
This trio is truly young, having taken shape only since February of 2000 at the Berklee College of music. Bostonians, you are so fortunate! Just follow the scene a bit and you are gifted with kismet such as this every year. Only here could circumstances arise which would cause three relative jazz prodigies, a drummer from Slovakia, a bassist from Long Island and guitarist from Pittsburgh, to form a band and gig not-so-regularly at intimate bohemian venues. Show up at a gig and you'll hear an organic evolution of the songs on their debut cd, a recording that falls clearly in the top handful of stuff (all the stuff-major label or indie) I've heard this year! By the way, the drummer's 25, the guitarist's 22 and the bassist can't drink-he's 18! Say it with me now, eighteen, and he wrote 5 of the 11 tunes on the cd!
I'll admit it's through the word on the street about the youngest guy -Mitch Cohn- that I came to find out about the trio. Certainly, he has a style all his own, capable of fleet solo runs, deft, technical chordal support and jackrabbit sixteenth note propulsiveness, but somehow falling under an umbrella I'd call "jazz-folk" bass playing. He's been playing bass for three whole years now! But guitarist John Shannon also possesses an equally unique style, an amalgam of more familiar players like Abercrombie, Metheny or Krantz, yet, somehow apart from them. Martin Valihora is an extremely exciting young drummer who, evidently, has something of a rep in Europe already. I guarantee you he will have one here soon, as he is capable of extremely technical, yet sensitive and truly jazz drumming- this kid swings in the buoyant way - the way Bob Moses and Paul Motian swing!
But it's the trio that's the thing here, the entity that, in effect removes consideration of the chronological ages of the individual members from the discussion. "Moon Seagull," a Latin tinged, feel-good bounce with a lyrical, rhythmically buoyant, solo section for Shannon, really does make you feel nice-like you're watching one. "The Ancient Bloom" begins with a heavy odd-time, circular tribal feel, transitioning into a into a cascading head, punctuated by a section consisting of simple bass harmonics. The tune takes a more African feel, morphing into a linear solo for Cohn. The solo flows like a folksong within the song; it could stand on its own as a gorgeous little etude, but flows seamlessly back into the head.
"Welcome to the War, Child" is Shannon's first turn on electric sitar/guitar, using the very same axe popularized by Metheny, but putting a decidedly personal stamp on it, using it to provide some "nice" dissonance to the gorgeous head and quickly segueing into a solo. He's seamlessly followed by Cohn, who again , comes up with a 90-second tune within a tune-emotive without being schmaltzy, technical without being a display of chops, heartfelt without being anything less. Again the transition to the theme is all but unidentifiable. Such is the manifestation of improvisation as a highly prioritized element of composition.
"Boundless" is a bit more fun, a two bar groove that segues into another, then backs out the way it came. Somehow it turns into a hypnotic bass loop for Shannon to do his stuff over while Valihora boils the magic, supportive cauldron underneath it all. Drum hits are everywhere, yet, somehow it all just floats!
Well, if you couldn't tell, I can't say enough positive things about this band, other than "The Relevance of Rain" is the bass tour-de-force of the set and the "East" features the absolutely catchiest little vamp I've heard for quite some time. They should just use it as a segue between every tune on the cd! Tune descriptors aside, I guarantee none of the sounds herein will disappoint. There's absolutely zero filler. The inspiration factor is palpable, an if you're like me (read old ) you'll be inspired too. I know I should stop bringing up their age, but certainly, it's a contributing factor to the mystique of the band and the rapture I have with them that makes me want to convey to you how truly special they are.
I'll leave you with this. These guys are all obviously great individual players. They're already splintered off a bit, developing careers as sought-after young sidemen. Valihora gigs with hollow-body-guitar bopmeister Ron Afiff and Cohn's already turned gigs in with no less of an outright genius than the amazing Ben Monder. Here's hoping such worthwhile endeavors don't stand in the way of one that should take priority; the continuing development of the Waking Vision Trio. Their cd is available at www.wakingvision.com.
Track Listing: 1.Moon Seagull 2.The Ancient Bloom 3.Welcome to the War, Child 4. Boundless 5. Beauty Cries in a Whisper 6. Holding Back 7. The Relevance of Rain 8. East 9. Fresh Water Prayer 10. Wishing Lamp 11.Prayer for the Ocean
Personnel: Mitch Cohn- bass, John Shannon-guitar, Martin Valihora-drums
Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock