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From its novelty beginnings, the vibraphone has in many ways become the essence of cool. Thanks in large part to the revolutionary multiple-mallet techniques developed by Gary Burton, the vibraphone has greatly increased its harmonic capabilities. These three recordings each feature a performer who delivers complex improvisatory jazz with the vibes center stage, providing differing takes on the instrument's place in mainstream modern jazz.
True to its title, Tom Beckham's The Center Songs is about the songs and he has a decided knack for a tune that tells a melodic story. A Burton student, he has brought together an ensemble with a broad open sound. This airiness is due, in large part, to pianist Henry Hey, who can move in concert with Beckham for a lovely harmony of timbres, chordally comp behind for a solid foundation or inventively solo in his own right. Saxophonist Chris Cheek plays well off of Beckham and both have appealing round sounds with Cheek on occasion adding a bit of an edge to the proceedings. Bassist John Hebert and drummer Diego Voglino add just the right amount of rhythmic ballast so the ambience of a "Zero Gravity Situation can lift things off and "Center Song perfectly touches down after a pleasingly silky flight.
Interwords features Dan McCarthy's vibes ringing out like majestic bells on pieces that encounter an assortment of styles that include bop, Latin and straight-ahead. Fragile melodies are delivered with care and buttressed with delightful understatement by bassist Matt Wigton and drummer Greg Ritchie. These are likewise interspersed with brief melodic bits that serve as a "Prologue , "Epilogue and intriguing "Short Stories . Saxophonist Myron Walden impinges on this fine fabric for some welcomed heft, enhancing the spirituality of "Thought Again and "Beyond All Others while providing feverish post-bop "Insight . McCarthy has put together a crisp clean trio that reveals the vibraphone's unmatched sonic richness in the context of a variety of rhythms.
With Vibe Fantasy Czech vibraphonist Radek Krampl and his cohorts from the Jaroslav Jezek Conservatoire in Prague: saxophonist Martin Vondora, bassist TomáÅ¡ LiÅ¡ka and drummer Pavel Razem deliver a solid program that is equal parts funk, soul and groove. Originals like CD opener "Devil's Rocks bring with them a palpable compositional depth. Krampl makes his vibes sing out or mutes them to affect a mysteriously ethereal soundstage. Vondora likewise uses his saxophone in an aggressively post-bop manner or colors with resonant shades of sounds to the ensemble's advantage in their interpretations of three pieces by Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett's "Memories of Tomorrow and an exceedingly "cool version of Miles' "Blue in Green . Common to all three sessions is a glorious timbre that invokes intimate spaces, confirming that there is nothing better to 'set the mood' than a recording by a vibraphonist.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Zero Gravity Situation; Visitation; Charger; The Mansion; Roll 'Em; Two Part Convention; SLeuth; Exhale; Center Song..
Personnel: Tom Beckham: vibraphone; Chris Cheek: saxophones; Henry Hey: piano; John Hebert: bass; Diego Voglino: drums.
Tracks: Prologue; Something Walking; Thought Again; Short Story #2; Harlem Folk Song; Ballyhoo For Ted; Short Story #6; Beyond All Others; Ebo; Orchid; Short Story #3; Sun Chaser; Insight; Epilogue.
Personnel: Dan McCarthy: vibraphone; Matt Wigton: bass; Greg Ritchie: drums; Myron Walden: saxophones (3,8,13).
Tracks: Devil's Rocks; Memories of Tomorrow; Witch Hunt; Dolly from Vienna; Dirty Dozen; Foot Prints; Blue in Green; Yes or No; Pasians .
Personnel: Radek Krampl: vibraphone; Martin Vondra; saxophones; TomáÅ¡ LiÅ¡ka: bass; Pavel Razem: drums.