Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

271

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


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Lattice CD/LP/Track Review Lattice
by John Sharpe
Published: December 14, 2017
Read I Think I’m Going To Eat Dessert CD/LP/Track Review I Think I’m Going To Eat Dessert
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 14, 2017
Read Celebrating William Parker at 65 CD/LP/Track Review Celebrating William Parker at 65
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: December 14, 2017
Read Eternal Life CD/LP/Track Review Eternal Life
by Jerome Wilson
Published: December 14, 2017
Read Baby It's Cold Outside CD/LP/Track Review Baby It's Cold Outside
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Wrong Turns And Dead Ends CD/LP/Track Review Wrong Turns And Dead Ends
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 13, 2017
Read "Aram Bajakian's Dolphy Formations" CD/LP/Track Review Aram Bajakian's Dolphy Formations
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: December 28, 2016
Read "Morph" CD/LP/Track Review Morph
by Tyran Grillo
Published: March 2, 2017
Read "Stage 'N Studio" CD/LP/Track Review Stage 'N Studio
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 15, 2017
Read "Before The Silence" CD/LP/Track Review Before The Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "The Roc" CD/LP/Track Review The Roc
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 28, 2017
Read "Supreme" CD/LP/Track Review Supreme
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 25, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!