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Michael Vlatkovich: Mortality

Glenn Astarita By

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Esteemed West Coast trombonist Michael Vlatkovich's second release with the large ensemble outfit Ensemblio, features a cast of largely, So. California artists including tuba performer Bill Roper and keyboardist Wayne Peet, who is also credited with the engineering duties on this pristinely recorded studio set. Nonetheless, Vlatkovich tosses more than just a few curveballs into the mix.

The ensemble frequently subdivides into smaller factions during mini-motifs, but the program is an off-centered case study when considering how numerous genres are merged into avant-garde or customary modern jazz frameworks along with the ever-present improvisational quotient. Whether it's Tom McNalley lashing out with a fusoid guitar solo or percussionist Ken Park steering an Afro-Cuban interlude, Vlatkovich also intersperses Zappa-like horns arrangements with brief nouveau classical passages. Moreover, Carol Sawyer's wordless vocals and harmonizing efforts also serve as an additional instrument.

Diversity and a flock of dynamics emphasize many of these pieces. For example, "As quickly as it came," sounds like it could be an exaggeration (spoof) of an old time Broadway musical, topped off by Sawyer's chorale type overlays. But "Sometimes a red nose and big shoes aren't enough," is a pumping jazz rocker via succinct horns and ballsy choruses, streaked with oddball overtones. Yet the piece is built around Park's extended drum soloing—executed in classic big band fashion where the musicians proverbially give the 'drummer some' by pushing and prodding him during his polyrhythmic jaunts. Otherwise "Hiding out as a verb," contains a touch of chamber jazz and a forum for trumpeter Dan Clucas to stretch out, nicely augmented by Peet's lush piano phrasings and the band's playful call and response maneuvers. Although "Goodbye," is modeled with a mini-big band mindset, devised with shuffling grooves, thrusting horns and odd-metered time signatures.

Overall, there's a lot to digest. However, the ensemble keeps this energized aural feast going with an uncanny mode of attack by bridging certain mainstream jazz processes into an ultra-modern exposition, complete with hearty improvisational segments and off-kilter detours amid a production that delivers good cheer throughout.

Track Listing: Adeptly disguised as chairs and tables the audience listened quietly; As quickly as it came; Or do you have change for a $20?; Out of the wall and into the night; Sometimes a red nose and big shoes aren't enough; Mortality; Hiding out as a verb; Goodbye.

Personnel: Michael Vlatkovich: trombone; Dan Clucas: trumpet; Jill Torberson: French horn; Bill Plake: tenor sax; David Riddles: bassoon, flute, soprano sax, clarinet; Andrew Pask: alto and bari saxophones, bass clarinet; Bill Roper: tuba, bombardondino; Harry Scorzo: violin; Jonathan Golove: cello; Tom McNalley: electric guitar; Dominic Genova: bass; Wayne Peet: piano, keyboards; Carol Sawyer: voice; Ken Park: drums, mallet percussion, all other percussion.

Title: Mortality | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: pfMentum

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