Vinson Valega is a devoted environmental and progressive activist who seems engaged with his craft on an aesthetic level but also, it seems, in a profoundly logical, moral way. The drummer's compositions sound significant, as if every note were saying something, down to the slightest tap of the drumstick. This is not to say his records are wholly serious products: Valega demonstrates that quirk and laughter have their place alongside order and gravitas.
The strength of Biophilia lies in that its selection of songs work with each other, performedperhaps even definedin relation to each other. "Strange" is a tight little interlude that lasts less than a minute but serves as a promising buffer that delivers listeners to the last two tracks, which conceptually close off the record. The sweetness of "I Just Wanted To See What You Look Like" and "Charm" (the former more than five minutes long, the latter less than one) counteract with the unapologetically tart "Day By Day." The record sounds tight and easy and fresh, though it's clear that the easiness is facilitated by preparation and the freshness necessitated by an unwavering commitment to compositional order. "Sunset and the Mockingbird" is an Ellington piece that sounds like a reinterpretation with the softer crescendos and the sharper, dagger-like sax notes that puncture through the rhythmic layers. That eases into "A Moment of Silence," which is anything but. The piece is a frenetic assembly of yearningthe piano scattering in the opening notes, the elegant and restrained cascading that's tempered by the almost intimidating drums about a third into the song.
Harmonic dexterity is one thing, orchestral ambition is another. But listening to a track like "Let" causes the listener to feel viscerally moved by the phantom sax and piano notes that seem to merge slowly, almost imperceptibly, into something accessible, groovy and memorable that seems finished. You begin to think that if the piece closes at any one of two or three possible ending points throughout its length, it would be fine because it's had its say and said it well. The piano and drums come in humbly, begging to differ, challenging what's there and promising there are better moments to come.
Track Listing: I Knew You'd Say That; Sunset and the Mockingbird; A Moment of Silence; Biophilia; Let; Day By Day; Kathelin Gray; I Just Wanted to See What You Look Like; Charm; November Spring; Always; Talk Time; Strange; Think of One; Doesn't It Feel Great To Be Alive?.
Personnel: Vinson Valega: drums; Anton Denner: alto sax; Chris Bacas: tenor sax; Mark Miller: trombone; Matthew Fries: piano; Gary Wang: bass.
I was first exposed to Jazz when a couple of dear friends of mine turned me onto it around 1971. I was already into Progressive music, R n' B, Soul, Motown, Latin Rock and other styles that were a great ladder to Jazz
I was first exposed to Jazz when a couple of dear friends of mine turned me onto it around 1971. I was already into Progressive music, R n' B, Soul, Motown, Latin Rock and other styles that were a great ladder to Jazz.
Being a Musician myself, (Lead Guitar/Bass Guitar), I studied at the Dick Grove School of Music with Dick Grove, Jeff Richman and Lee Ritenour. This was around '84-'85. I started playing the Guitar in November 1967. Playing Guitar came quite naturally to me thank goodness. Though I spent hours upon hours practicing while my school buddies were doing Sports.
It was in the early '70s that I really got into Jazz, Jazz Rock, Jazz Fusion and World Music. Seeing Weather Report, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Larry Carlton, Steely Dan, John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, RTF, Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters, VSOP, Freddie Hubbard and so many, many more amazing artists opened my eyes to the beauty and eloquent nature of Jazz. I really love the brilliant ensemble playing that is in Jazz!!
When I play and write music, it blends so many style together. Many fans ask me why my playing sounds so jazzy. It's because I understand Blue Notes, the phrasing, the tonality, time signatures and more. I can also play Rock, Folk, Soul, R n' B and other styles too. I seem to gravitate more and more as I get older to a jazzier style. Currently I'm 62 years old. I have released 2 CDs world-wide. Working on my 3rd.
I also teach Guitar/Bass/Music Theory to my students. They range from 6 years old to much, much older. (I was hired by the City of Aurora, CO to teach ages 6-13 specifically). Currently I teach 41 children in 5 classes. Additionally another 7 private students.
My wife, Meesh, and I love Jazz dearly. It was one of the things that we share together!
Most of the people that I know today do not get jazz. I try to explain what to listen for, but many times the music of Jazz is a bit much for them. So be it.
In a nutshell, I live, breath and listen to Music 24/7. No TV except the Food Channel and Weather.
I love John Kelman's articles. They are so insightful and well-constructed!
Thank you all for doing what you do.