All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Nick Vayenas: Synesthesia

Greg Camphire By

Sign in to view read count
Trombonist and multi-instrumentalist Nick Vayenas unveils a colorful palette of ideas on Synesthesia, his debut as a leader. Vayenas and his band mates chart their own course, albeit one that uses musical maps drawn up by the Herbie Hancock Sextet on such albums as Mwandishi (Warner Bros., 1970) and Sextant (Columbia, 1972), with the resulting path fusing elements of jazz, funk, rock and electronics while bypassing the dated connotations of the fusion label.

The energetic opening track, "Voyager," makes sparing use of synthesizer textures, which may not be to everyone's taste, but give a modern vibe to the proceedings. The loose, abstracted groove shares some similarities with underground UK acts including Cinematic Orchestra and 4 Hero, which operate more in the realm of electronica and hip-hop than jazz. However, when excellent pianist Aaron Parks cuts through the tune's dense electric atmosphere with a shimmering acoustic run, one can hear the unmistakable bop-influenced skills of the musicians involved.

"Circuit Dialog" integrates electronic programming into the fairly complex arrangement, which boasts alternating odd-meter sections as well as a twitchy, mid-song breakdown that wouldn't be entirely out of place on a DJ Shadow record. Similarly, "Assembly Line" has a funky, loping bass line as its centerpiece, slugging along with an elastic sense of time, while "The Essence" lays down a thick beat that would most likely raise the roof in the band's live set.

It's immediately obvious from the get-go that Vayenas and his colleagues are all very capable players—their chops sharpened, their improvising instincts fine-tuned and their harmonic knowledge vast. But that impressiveness is tempered sometimes by thin arrangements; the band rambles a bit over the course of several of Synesthesia's tracks without making much of a cohesive, concise emotional statement. At these moments, one wishes the musicians could sound a little less polite and precise, and a little more raw and rugged.

Luckily, "Odeon" helps fulfill that wish as Vayenas and company get into some straight-up acoustic swing, capturing the vibe of the classic 1960s Miles Davis band. Due in no small part to drummer Kendrick Scott's Tony Williams-esque style, the group really gels here, digging in with fire as they push forward with spirited spontaneity without relying on electronics to provide a sense of modernity.

As the weight of experience adds some grit to these players' youthful enthusiasm and virtuosity, Vayenas and company's future endeavors will surely give adventurous music fans something to look forward to.

Track Listing: Voyager; Assembly Line; Synesthesia; Odeon; Along the Way; Circuit Dialog; Staircase; The Essence; Dissolution; Soaring; Gone from Me.

Personnel: Nick Vayenas: valve trombone, trombone (3, 6), Rhodes (2, 3, 6, 11), synth bass (2, 6, 11), programming (2, 3, 6, 11), voice (3, 10), percussion (3, 6); Kendrick Scott: drums, congas (6); Aaron Parks: piano (1, 3, 5, 7-10), Rhodes (3, 8, 11), synth (1, 5); Matt Brewer: acoustic bass (1, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10), electric bass (8); Janek Gwizdala: electric bass (2, 3, 6, 8); Patrick Cornelius: alto sax (4, 7, 8), soprano sax (5, 9), tenor sax (5); Oliver Manchon: strings (5, 11); Gretchen Parlato: voice (11).

Title: Synesthesia | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: World Culture Music


comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Lala Belu CD/LP/Track Review
Lala Belu
by Chris May
Published: March 23, 2018
Read All Melody CD/LP/Track Review
All Melody
by Phil Barnes
Published: March 23, 2018
Read The Future is Female CD/LP/Track Review
The Future is Female
by Paul Rauch
Published: March 23, 2018
Read Hunters & Scavengers CD/LP/Track Review
Hunters & Scavengers
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 23, 2018
Read Fill Up Your Lungs and Bellow CD/LP/Track Review
Fill Up Your Lungs and Bellow
by Tyran Grillo
Published: March 22, 2018
Read Transatlantic CD/LP/Track Review
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 22, 2018
Read "Shadow Work" CD/LP/Track Review Shadow Work
by Phil Barnes
Published: November 22, 2017
Read "Uncharted Waters" CD/LP/Track Review Uncharted Waters
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 11, 2017
Read "Out of Place" CD/LP/Track Review Out of Place
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 6, 2017
Read "Simiskina" CD/LP/Track Review Simiskina
by John Sharpe
Published: December 26, 2017
Read "Proverbe" CD/LP/Track Review Proverbe
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 15, 2017
Read "Scarlett Roses" CD/LP/Track Review Scarlett Roses
by Doug Collette
Published: November 26, 2017