Review “Standards” by JazzGuitarSociety.com
Jazz Guitar Society December 28 2012 Doug Perkins
I have to say up front that I am anything but a jazz purist, I am always looking for something that I haven’t heard before and I have just found that so many of the people currently playing what can be referred to as “straight ahead” jazz seem more to be paying the past homage rather than create something of their own. So when I first looked at all the standards on the new Albert Vila Trio CD, I was a bit….shall we say, less than excited to listen to it. But even a few seconds into the opening track showed me that there is an original voice here that has new things to say on the “American Songbook” of jazz standards.
“East of the Sun”, the opening track, lets you know right away that it’s not “business as usual” opening with a propellingly inventive drums and bass groove, and then guitarist Vila playing some mysteriously introspective chords to set the stage for the reading of the melody. One of the things that hit me right away was how sonically rich the recording was, with big rich lows that still let all the cymbals’ highs and the fudgy mids of Albert’s gorgeous jazz guitar tones come through. Speaking of his guitar tone, I’m sure a lot of it is in Albert’s hands as far as the tone production goes, but it’s pretty clear this instrument was not purchased on special at Wal-Mart. He has one of the best straight ahead guitar sounds I have ever heard, his D´Angelico Vestax is like the guitar version of a 9 foot Steinway: very full ranged and never dull or muddy with a lot of sustain. Vila’s solo starts lyrically but gets into some very interesting motific development, and shows an advanced but tasteful approach to his note choice; hinting a lot at the upper structures of the chords, and occasionally showing a little of his considerable chops.
Bill Evan’s “Very Early” gives a lithe and sinuous reading to what is usually a pretty delicate tune. The interplay between Vila’s guitar and Reinier Elizarde‘s bass is complex and intuitive, and Albert has the ability to make you think of Pat Metheny in his soloing without ever actually playing any of Metheny’s distinctive lines, which is a feat in itself. Elizarde is a Cuban bass player who also tours with a Quincy Jones’ new Cuban piano find Alfredo Rodriguez
“Soul Eyes” starts with very impressive solo guitar section that shows everything that I like to hear in a guitar player: a sensitive touch, great voicings that show an inventive use of open strings and a strong command of harmony, always keeping a bluesy lyricism. When it got to the rest of the tune it just kept delivering, always true to the melancholy bittersweet tone but always developing and growing. Bassist Elizarde, delivers a very hip but melodic solo to follow up Vila’s, and then it’s even more of Albert’s ultra-hip voicings (those high octaves with the open strings at 6:31 are killer), and heads out with an unaccompanied guitar outro with a cool extended cymbal roll.
The band jacks up the metronome with “It’s Alright With Me”, starting with Vila showing you what he’s got by coming out of the gate with a burning unaccompanied vamp and the band coming in at the head. The drums hold back until the solo starts and then turn up the gas to high heat. The trio’s drummer Jorge Rossy, was the Brad Mehldau´s trios drummer for many years and played also with Wayne Shorter, Joshua Redman, Lee Konitz, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Seamus Blake, and as such is a fantastic choice for the band.
“Summer Night” starts with on his custom built Yamamoto baritone acoustic guitar piece that could have easily been on the “One Quiet Night”, which moves into a cool mid-tempo 6/8 tune on the electric – if you listen closely, you can hear Albert faintly scatting along with his very soulful solo, followed by another very nice bass solo from Elizarde.
“26-2” starts with a truly beautiful chord study intro with the sort of “modern extended Bach spread voicings” that some of the great new players like Julian Lage have gotten into these days. That progresses into an up-tempo sort of updated be-bop type tune for the trio that recalls some of Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” type tunes as well as Parker’s “Confirmation”. Albert gets into some almost Ornette Coleman sort of stuff in his solo, but shows that he’s a consummate master of harmony and always is coming up with new and inventive things to do on a very interesting and challenging set of changes.
Vila swings into the mellow side on “You’re My Everything”, still showing how he can be blend lyrical and harmonically hip at the same time, with an inventive use of seconds and some cool parallel 4th chords in the intro. After another melodic bass solo from Elizarde, Albert comes back with a beautiful reading of the melody with some cool open string voicings and a cool parallel 4th thing at the end.
“One Hundred Years Of Solitude”, the one Vila original here, closes off the record with another beautiful solo acoustic guitar intro of depth and emotion, which shifts to a trio with the electric guitar. The drums take us out with a cool sort of “across the bar line military snare” thing from Rossy over Vila’s reoccurring rhythmic note clusters on the guitar.
It always surprises me at how many generations can find new things to mine out of songs that have been around for so long, it seems impossible that there could be a seemingly unending flow of creativity that has lasted this long. But this record shows that the creativity in the talented human mind can find constant new and beautiful things to do with what is, after all, the same 12 notes we’ve been using for thousands of years.
Doug Perkins Los Angeles, CA JazzGuitarSociety.com Dec. 28, 2012