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Vorcza at Nectar's

Doug Collette By

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Burlington, VT
January 13, 2018

Vorcza brought its earthy elegance to Nectar's early this new year in what hopefully constitutes a harbinger of more frequent appearances to come in 2018. The stage once inhabited so regularly by Phish can seem uncomfortably cramped for some bands, but from a particular vantage point this frosty night inside the Burlington club, it appeared expressly designed for the trio.

In a metaphor for the ease with which they play together, Vorcza arranged itself in a perfect triangle. And their playing during this first hour plus exhibited exactly that natural pleasure the threesome take in their collaboration. Keyboardist Ray Paczkowski, bassist Robinson Morse and drummer Gabe Jarrett never intrude on each other's instrumental space, but rather know instinctively not just to stay out of each others' way, but remain just far enough apart and maintain a sufficiently firm connection. This fluid relationship that gives each man room to move prevents the trio from doing anything too obvious, so it should come as no surprise that the one cover among a half-dozen originals was Ornette Coleman's "Broadway Blues."

Within all the nuance, Vorcza's most overt gestures were the shared smiles of delight as they traversed some particularly tricky changes or arrived together at an emphatic full stop. Then there was the sight of Morse and Jarrett beaming at each other watching and hearing Paczkowski lean into those organ lines he was pumping out to conclude "Latin 7" with such a flourish. Jarrett usually doesn't just keep time—and when he does it's almost on a subliminal level—but there are tunes where he needs to play in more metronomic fashion (as he did during "Offsider") yet when he takes that approach, it's only on a deceptively superficial level, because in those instances he also inserts multiple layers of syncopation. Such patterns are invariably as fascinating to follow as more explicitly intricate beats like the one he used on the opener "Goya."

That he demonstrates such a versatility with his drums lies at the core of his chemistry with his bandmates, especially his partner in the rhythm section, Robinson Morse. In switching back and forth from acoustic to electric instruments, the bassist transfers his percussive style of playing from one to the other and, in a further mark of distinction, he sounds ever-so-slightly more fluid on the stand-up than when he straps on its energized counterpart. Either way, he, like his counterparts, all veteran members of this city's vigorous music community, imbues his playing with a uncommon force, an impact inescapable when the house sound is a clean and clear as it was this Saturday night. (Kudos to resident sonic scientist of Nectar's, Sergei Ushakov).

Whether Vorcza followed a predetermined set list January 13th or called the tunes on an impromptu basis, this first set of two had a logic and unity that made it a complete performance unto itself, each successive tune slightly different than the previous by which progressions the band built almost imperceptible momentum. And, like most such memorable sequences, the dynamics didn't become wholly apparent until near the end: Paczkowski opened "Don 'ere" with an extended, insinuating intro on the electric piano he had eschewed much of the evening in favor of his weathered Hammond B-3 and the clavinet (the pair he'd often play simultaneously, in tandem and counterpoint).

From the outset of the night, Vorcza had elicited hearty acclamation from the small but hardy group of attendees in the room, but the combination of dignity and down-to-earth spontaneity that permeated this number earned the loudest response of all and deservedly so.


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