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Nick Vayenas & World Culture Music at The Tribeca Performing Arts Center, NYC

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Nick Vayenas & World Culture Music
The Tribeca Performing Arts Center
New York City, New York
May 21, 2008

World Culture Music is an artists' collective music label founded by drummer Kendrick Scott. This concert was split into two halves, the first a showcase for the albums by the members of the collective, including vocalist/composer Julie Hardy (The Wish (2007)), guitarist Mike Moreno (Between The Lines (2007)), and Scott himself (The Source (2007)); and the second a set for trombonist/composer Nick Vayenas' new album, Synesthesia.

The hall itself is a wonderful performing space with steep construction reminiscent of Town Hall, so any seat is close to the action and assures good sound. Supporting the highlighted musicians were Gerald Clayton (piano, Fender Rhodes), Patrick Cornelius (alto sax), Matt Clohesy (acoustic and electric bass) and Fabian Almazan (synths, electronics, Fender Rhodes). Hardy, Moreno and Scott each performed tunes from their well-received albums to what was initially a small, but appreciative crowd. However, by the time the Vayenas' set got started, the central seating section was fairly full.

Vayenas, a multi-instrumentalist, stayed with the valve trombone throughout. While the album feels a bit overproduced, the well-rehearsed band took the music and ran with it, enhancing the grooves, vamps, harmonies and beauty that are latent in the album.

What's most noticeable about Vayenas' music are the catchy bass lines and the drama produced by the arrangements. "Voyager," the first tune on the record, started the show with its vibrant rhythm and two- chord vamp that was much more powerful than on the recording. Clayton really took off on this, building a wonderful solo that set the vibe for the rest of the set.

"Assembly Line" has a step-wise, descending bass pattern with a kick to it that sounds a bit plodding on the recording, perhaps meaning to imply the dull repetitive nature of working on an assembly line. Here, Clohesy's electric bass supercharged the piece's movement, giving it power and punch. The static section with the repeating bass figure led to an effective release, cleansing the ear for the next go-round. Another example of the live version of a tune having a more immediate punch than the recorded version was "Circuit Dialog." Starting with a synthesizer figure that is meant to evoke electronics, the tune developed much more drive than was present on the record.

That Vayenas has a romantic side was displayed with the very pretty tune "Along The Way." Although he jokingly announced it was "for the ladies," the tune has a lot of depth and the arrangement created a number of interesting timbres through unison sax and trombone playing.

Individually the sidemen were all excellent. Almazan, especially in the half when he was on the piano, listened carefully and played tastefully. Clayton took over the piano playing for the second half, and clearly relished getting into the rhythmic vibe of Vayenas' music. Cornelius, also on the recording, is a marvelous player, his lines on alto soaring in both parts of the show. Clohesy is one of the most physical acoustic bassists you will see, literally pulling his sound out of his instrument, and his electric bass playing was superb.

Special mention needs to go to Kendrick Scott, not only for being the engine behind World Culture Music, but also for his seemingly effortless but highly energetic drumming. On the recording, he is back in the mix, but live he is an upfront whirlwind, completely filling the sound-space and controlling the rhythmic ebb and flow of the arrangements.

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