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Will Vinson: Perfectly Out Of Place

Dan Bilawsky By

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Perfectly Out Of Place—the sixth album from saxophonist Will Vinson—is a marvel of compositional design, textural beauty, and musicality. It's both in keeping with his previous work and several steps beyond and above.

While Vinson is essentially sticking with his favored quintet format on this one, he's expanded his sonic palette by adding some judicious overdubs and bringing in a number of special guests—The Mivos Quartet, vocalist Jo Lawry, and percussionist Jamey Haddad. He's also upped his already-impressive game on the writing end, broadening and elongating the picture(s) with material that's a bit more through-composed than what he's delivered in the past. It all adds up to one fascinating listen.

While there are many and varied aspects of this music to admire, complete and purposeful artistic unification may be chief among them. Vinson's primary collaborators—pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, guitarist Mike Moreno, bassist Matt Penman, and drummer Jeff Ballard—all have the potential to be scene-stealers, and they do contribute plenty of memorable statements and ideas. But they never showboat here. The fact that they work in deference to the music is a credit to them and a sign of the respect they have for the material and its composer. They manage to band together without issue, asserting themselves while also keeping focus on the task(s) at hand. In short, they're perfectly in their respective places.

The entryway into this world—the album-opening "Desolation Tango"—is paved with a mixture of allure and isolation. The Mivos Quartet delivers a captivating prelude, Penman's simple rise-and-fall bass line serves as mooring and bonding agent, and the collective whole delivers an intoxicating perfume that floats and coalesces in intriguing fashion. Vinson manages to brilliantly mix the solid and vaporous. This is music that's shapely and amorphous all at once.

That opener helps to establish and identify the sound for this project, but it says little about the album's direction. Vinson goes where he pleases with each piece, and he never goes to the same place twice. "Upside" is an energetic and playful winner that opens on a Ballard solo and features some of Vinson's most uplifting work; "Willoughby General" delivers chilled-out charm and contains a soulfully pointed statement from Penman; "Limp Of Faith" is a patient and weighty meditation for piano and saxophone; and "Stiltskin (Some Drunk Funk)" works a hip and lopsided groove angle that establishes its own twenty-first century aesthetic while also winking toward the Brecker Brothers in parenthetical and (somewhat) audible fashion.

Each of those works manages to impress, but "Skyrider" outdoes them all. It's a sublime statement that capitalizes on the talents of everybody on the roster. Wondrously winding lines are delivered by artfully blended voices, moving pieces interlock and reconfigure themselves in astounding ways, solo heroics have a hand-in-glove fit with the surrounding architecture, and all parties have a stake in the success of the music. Words simply can't capture the majesty, vibrancy, and power of this piece.

Complexity and sophistication often manage to scare people away when it comes to music, but Will Vinson has managed to package both into a completely accessible and enjoyable album. Perfectly Out Of Place is quite an achievement by any and every measure.

Track Listing: Desolation Tango; Upside; Willoughby General; Skyrider; Intro To Limp Of Faith; Stiltskin (Some Drunk Funk); Chalk It Up; The Clock Killer; Perfectly Out Of Place.

Personnel: Will Vinson: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, synthesizers, celesta; Mike Moreno: guitar; Gonzalo Rubalcaba: piano, Fender Rhodes, synthesizers; Matt Penman: bass; Jeff Ballard: drums; Jo Lawry: vocals; Jamey Haddad: percussion (4); The Mivos Quartet-Olivia De Prato: violin; Joshua Modney: violin; Victor Lowrie: viola; Mariel Roberts: cello.

Title: Perfectly Out Of Place | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: 5Passion


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