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Albert Vila: Reality Is Nuance

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Albert Vila: Reality Is Nuance
Notwithstanding a sojourn at the Manhattan School of Music, Albert Vila is better known in European jazz circles than in the U.S.A.. A native of Barcelona, Vila does his touring in Europe but the appeal of his playing is much broader. If there ever was a jazz guitarist "deserving of wider recognition" in US circles, it is Vila. Despite his profoundly Iberian touch (listening to him is a bit like listening to the renowned classical guitarist Narciso Yepes) his current bandmates are American, bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Rudy Royston. They are a sympathetic group in every way and the results are most intriguing. It is cliché to call music a universal language, but after listening to Vila, it is difficult to think of how else to describe his work.

For some, his solo recording Levity ( Hypnote Records, 2023) was an introduction, recorded at the height of the Covid pandemic, and a revelation, reprising everything from "Eleanor Rigby" to "Everything Happens to Me." It makes compelling listening, perhaps even more so than his current recording, Reality is Nuance. This is his seventh recording. It is beautiful, technically ambitious and very good listening, although there are moments when its direction is difficult to discern. The technique of hybrid picking, or something akin to it, unique to Vila, may not be associated with jazz guitar; the guitarist himself says sometimes it works and sometimes it does not, but he employs it to great advantage here. Vila is so adept that a first impression is this is overdubbed, but there is only one guitar. Weiss and Royston support him very well, creatively really, as if Vila is sometimes only suggesting a line, leaving it to them to shape and complete it. To paraphrase Vila, sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not.

The opening track is "Hope;" Vila opens introspectively and freely. He then introduces the theme with a repeated tonic. Polyrhythms follow, and then, a sudden stop. "Blue" follows a similar pattern, with Royston shaping the line and Weiss following up. The tune is creative and simple, but nevertheless goes in unexpected directions. Vila uses funky repeated figures and engages in spirited conversation with Weiss. He ends with a melody which recalls Johnny Mandel's theme from "Mash." "Northern Flower" is upbeat; it tells a story which is remarkably coherent at nearly eight minutes. "Healing" is a straight blues over a vamp. "216" (there is a "215" as well) sounds like an Andalucian cadence turning flamenco as it goes into the bridge. "Ancient Kingdom" is primarily a solo vehicle for bassist Weiss.

There is clearly a lot going on with the music and in the band. Sometimes Vila seems prone to lean on certain characteristic patterns and figures: but not on "April." There is no lack of ideas or imagination here. The sophistication of the rhythm section is no small thing because Vila's compositions (and spontaneity) are challenging. One waits to see what other grateful surprises Albert Vila has up his sleeve.

Track Listing

Hope, Blue, Northern Flower, Healing, The Loner, 215, 216, Ancient Kingdom, April.

Personnel

Albert Vila
guitar
Doug Weiss
bass, acoustic

Album information

Title: Reality Is Nuance | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Fresh Sound Records


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