The music on The Eye is the First Circle is undeniably outstandingly composed and arranged by Vanessa Perica. Her second outingfollowing Love is A Temporary Madness (Self released, 2020)with another supersonic ensemble, it was superbly recorded at the Sing Sing East Studios in Melbourne, showcasing numerous flawlessly performed solos by some of Australia's best improvising musicians. The bandleader, composer and arranger has created explosively expressionistic charts which would bring out the best in any orchestra. Perica utilises the chosen voices of her orchestra to highlight their musical personalities, a modus operandi similar to the great band leaders of the past such as Duke Ellington and Count Basie. Their solos are played with finesse and, while there are too many of them to mention all, there are some standout performances from Carl Mackey on both soprano and alto saxophones, Ben VanderWal 's consistently superb drumming, and Jamie Oehlers on the tenor saxophone. While explosions and fireworks abound throughout Perica's compositions, there are also some floating moments of quiet beauty. On favourite tracks, "Meet Me At Phoenix Street" and "What A Time To Be Alive," there are beautifully subtle piano sparkles from Andrea Keller, an emotionally charged tenor solo (which he does so well!) from Julien Wilson and a passionate yet tranquil trumpet solo from Matt Jodrell. On the whole, the recording is a forceful through-composed and improvised romp, with a lot of energy, power, and determination. By pushing the boundaries of big band orchestral music with her skilful contemporary arrangements and unique compositions, Vanessa Perica can shine luminously in the shadow of past bandleading greats as she delivers an outstanding recording brimming with vitality and avouchment of her skills.
The Eye is the First Circle; What a Time to Be Alive; Hill of Grace; Meet Me at Phoenix Street; Song for Cleo; Still We Rise; Love and War.
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Barry O'Sullivan is a jazz broadcaster, music reviewer, and feature article contributor which is broadcast twice weekly and nationally across Australia via the Community Radio Network and streamed live each Friday from 12.00pm AEST & [email protected]