“Therefore”, the first track on the new CD from Albert Vila, picks you up and shakes you from moment one in the opening track “Therefore” with a total show of strength from Albert’s fast cross picked solo guitar intro. Cut from the same cloth that artists like Julian Lage and Pat Metheny come from, every note makes sense and totally sets up the body of the tune when the band comes in. In general, I am someone that can’t listen to a guitarist just for great technique or soloing, there has to be great writing in the compositions. Aaron Parks’ nimble piano is constantly conversing back and forth with Albert’s guitar, and they are an excellent musical pairing for each other.
The second track “Epilogue” provides that, and is sort of a transitional musical glue to get you to “New Deal”, a piece that sort of gives you a feeling of a journey, which is a feeling that is really present in the whole record. He builds his solo beautifully, until passing it for a very cool interplay solo between Parks’ piano and Jeff Ballard’s drums. The track goes out with a vamp over Vila’s haunting and angular melodic guitar theme.
After all of this, “Air” is positioned as a “sherbet course” to cleanse the musical palate with something pretty and introspective, which gives us a very nice bass solo from Weiss. The track ends with another cool repeating guitar figure, and a pretty pastoral piano color takes it out.
“Gym Jam” is an aptly named athletic little work out in ¾ time. As always with Vila, a song is never just an excuse to solo, so there’s another strong melody that the tune is built on. The composition won him a Dutch jazz composition award, and you can hear why. This leads to “Six”, an interesting “tone row” type line on the guitar that repeats and lets the drums have some fun reacting to it as it passes by, which sets up the next piece nicely.
“Three Days After” goes aggressive to really change things up now, with some really interesting rhythmic groupings. This tune must have really taken some rehearsal, because these guys make playing over this time modulating groove sound natural and easy, they have it way beyond the point of having to count it. Albert pulls out a guitar synthesizer for his solo on this one, and he definitely shows his ability to go outside the harmony on this one. I’d like to see him do a lot more of this kind of playing both in terms of the synth sound and the sort of outside kind of writing, this might have been my favorite solo from him on the record. The tune ends on a question mark, leaving you wanting more.
“Beginning”, a great solo guitar piece, brings you to a more introspective mood. Vila interweaves in some beautiful harmonics with his fretted notes, and then goes into a series of heartfelt arpeggiated single lines to conclude.
“Minor Tragedy” is just like it sounds, a mid tempo brooding piece in ¾, and features a nicely crafted solo from Vila. The tune seamlessly transitions into the aptly titled “Transition”, which begins in ¾ and then moves to an interesting sort of “fractured time” metric modulation section where the melody stays the same but the time changes underneath it, gradually transitioning to 7/4 for a great piano solo from Parks. Ballard uses the same manipulation of the time feel to take us back to ¾ and out.
“Old Recipe” is just a total hard swingin’ old school groove, with a great bluesy head melody that you’d love to hear done in your favorite jazz club live.
“Major Issues” starts with a great hypnotic repeated guitar line, and never stops simmering along from the peculating piano solo to the guitar solo. Doug Weiss on upright bass and Ballard on drums burn up it up underneath the soloists, and then Ballard plays a fiery drum solo over a repeating figure out.
There’s another beautiful solo piece from Albert after that, “Short Piece”, and Via gets a big and beautiful sound out of his instrument, with the piece ending on a sort of anticipatory feeling.
“The Bean” winds the CD up. It’s an interesting medium tempo piece in seven, and Weiss and Ballard keep it loose and flowing throughout. Ballard and the whole band improvise rhythmically over a repeated figure at the end and slowly let off steam to the end.
Vila’s band always brings to mind the Pat Metheny Group in terms of how strong the compositions are and how much the soloing exists to drive the songs forward musically and dramatically – everything takes you somewhere. This new young guitarist comes to us from Spain via a Dutch Jazz Competition, which got him a scholarship to the graduate program at the Manhattan School of Music, studying with the likes of Dave Leibman and Rodney Jones – so you know that there’s going to be a lot more to come from this very talented musician.
Get MP3s on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/unquiet-sky-feat.-aaron-parks/id1082352747
Get a physical CD: http://www.freshsoundrecords.com/albert-vila/6399-the-unquiet-sky.html
April 1, 2016