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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).
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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