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Javier Vercher: Wish You Were Here

Geannine Reid By

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Pushing the limits of jazz is where saxophonist Javier Vercher resides, creating in a world full of experimentalism and melodicism, but creativity and heartfelt music is the unifying thread. On Wish You Were Here (MUSIKOZ), customary jazz is given an overhaul, flirting with dissonant or uneasy textures. In other words, it actually tosses jazz back into the groundbreaking sonic landscapes that once enabled it to light the world on fire. Wish You Were Here is visionary work, one that stands out in the mass mix of the countless numbers of average jazz chaos. Vercher is joined by an amazing cast which includes: Javier Vercher (tenor sax), Lionel Loueke (guitar), Larry Grenadier (bass), Francisco Mela (drums), Sam Yahel—(piano) on: "Vivi," "Magicians of Sound," "Ahi Donde Vive Joe," and bonus tracks: "Turning Towards Kindness," and "Rio Blanco." Special guests include: Arturo Stable (ethnic percussion) on "Vivi" and bonus track "Turning Towards Kindness," Jorge Perez (peruvian cajon), on "Blue Heron," Brian Henry Schreck (vocals) on the bonus track "Turning Towards Kindness."

Balancing the radical attitudes of modern jazz with the soulful precision of yesterdays be-bop, Wish You Were Here simultaneously manages to enthuse the senses and calm the nerves. Vercher's saxophone is the unifying factor in the eye of this perfect storm. On "Vivi," Vercher's determined playing is overflowing with character and spirit; his lines consistently weave through the harmony in unpredictable waves. Loueke's nylon guitar frames Vercher's mood-spinning single notes, as his double time lines build over Grenadier's solid bass and Mela's driving drums, which work together to create a volley of glorious sound at the end of Vercher's solo. It is also nice to hear Yahel's approach to the piano, excellent control and he really makes a concise statement.

The title track finds Loueke and Vercher in a wonderful conversation like setting, with Loueke playing just as many counterpoint lines to Vercher's solo as accompaniment chords. "Magicians of Sound" explores a folk-like melody that develops into pushing the genre's fringes, all in good taste and the group's listening and playing is spectacular. Vercher isn't afraid to sound sweetly or tuneful when the moment is right, "Ears of a Distant Traveler" is a gorgeous selection that captures the groups romantic sound and superb playing. "Blue Heron" opens with a melodic solo from Mela that leads to a straight-eight melody with Loueke providing thoughtful commentary to Vercher's horn. Of course, Vercher always adds that extra twist in his solos that really opens the listener's ears and makes them feel his lines, such is the case with all masters, they speak from the heart. One of the most compelling adventures on the album is "Ahi Donde Vive Joe." A rhythmically driving selection with Grenadiers' bass lines complimenting Mela's big beat. Vercher's sax playing on this selection is a master class in modern saxophone with edgy feeling, the blues, angular lines, cross-rhythms, super-imposed harmony and impeccable time.

"Rio Blanco" presents a free flowing ballad that again demonstrates the ability of this group to really listen to one-another and play in a conversational manner. Though the background is ever changing; Vercher's steady sax seems to amalgamate it all, framing the selection in an ever flowing melody that tells its unique story of traversed journey. "Turning Towards Kindness" paints a musical picture of an inner voice minding its own business like a silent witness in a busy city scape, maybe New York, echoes of the city's edgy, streetwise energy, but also the cloudy melancholy of her chaotic inner workings. "Rio Blanco" brings us full circle in sound and texture to the opening selection, completing our musical adventure.

Vercher is a lasting voice in the sax avenue, with a gritty, yet flexible and versatile sound, filled with articulate lines and well-executed ideas, joined by some of the best in jazz, this is a solid and lasting documentation of the growing genre of modern jazz.

Track Listing: Vivi; Wish You Were Here; Magicians of Sound; Ears of a Distant Traveler; Blue Heron; Ahi Donde Vive Joe; Style and Grace; Turning Towards Kindness; Rio Blanco.

Personnel: Javier Vercher: tenor sax, woodwinds, percussion; Lionel Loueke: guitar; Larry Grenadier: bass; Francisco Mela: drums; Sam Yahel: piano (1, 3, 6, 8, 9); Arturo Stable: ethnic percussion (1, 8); Jorge Perez: peruvian cajon (5); Brian Henry Schreck: vocals (8).

Title: Wish You Were Here | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: ADLIB arts

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