DOWNBEAT, JAZZTIMES, & JAZZIZ Reviews posted BELOW ...
1] "Urantia" (12:19) (solos: Aaron Heick, alto / Alex Norris, trumpet)
2] "Thru a Window" (10:56) (solos: Luis Perdomo, piano / Roger Rosenberg, soprano /
Dan Willis, tenor / Ignacio Berroa, drums / Samuel Torres, congas)
3) "The Visitor" (11:14) (solos: Joel Frahm, tenor / Luis Perdomo, piano)
4) "Whirlpool" (8:31) (solo: Aaron Heick, alto)
5) "Sevilla" (9:17) (solos: Luis Perdomo, piano / Roger Rosenberg, baritone/ Aaron Heick, alto)
6) "Guarabé" (9:02) - ©Clare Fischer/BMI (solos: Luis Perdomo, piano/ Aaron Heick, alto /
Roger Rosenberg, baritone / Alex Norris, trumpet/ Samuel Torres, congas)
7) "The Path of Change" (10:55) (solos: Pete McCann, guitar / Ignacio Berroa, drums /
Samuel Torres, congas)
The Roland Vazquez Band is a 19 piece all-star ensemble featuring:
Aaron Heick, Ben Kono, Joel Frahm, Dan Willis, Roger Rosenberg ... saxes & ww's;
Jon Owens, Tony Kadleck, James de la Garza, Alex Norris ... trumpets;
Keith O'Quinn, Larry Farrell, Tim Albright (and Isrea Butler), Jack Schatz ... trombones;
Luis Perdomo ... piano;
Pete McCann (and Jim Hershman) ... guitar;
Christos Rafaelides & Sean Ritenauer ... vibes;
James Genus ... bass;
Ignacio Berroa ... drums;
Samuel Torres ... congas & percussion;
Roland Vazquez ... composer/conductor.
Jim Hershman (guitar on 4 & 5)
Christos Rafaelides (vibes on 1, 2, & 3)
Sean Ritenauer (vibes on 4, 5, & 7)
TOTAL TIME: 72:32
1) "URANTIA" is a mythical name for the Earth & was originally composed after a visit to Greece. An imaginary journey through time from first light into chaos & discovery; leading to a final chorale & ensemble vamp implying a possible future. This work is dedicated in memory of my dear friends & mentors Don & Shirley Walker.
2) "THRU A WINDOW" is suggestive of our movement towards a “gateway” of new experience … an implication of the angst and uncertainty felt when challenging old expectations & reaching thru uncertainty towards progress.
3) "THE VISITOR" evolved out of an actual waking-dream experience of music suggesting the arrival of a “teacher", who in this case was bringing a new message or principle - the recognition of which leading to a new awareness, and eventual catharsis.
4) "WHIRLPOOL" is a gospel “funk” driven piece, which seems to be constantly falling forward into new phrases of increasing tension. The "Whirlpool" continues to unwind through an increasingly furious "coda" section (including a trombone referral to "Darn That Dream").
5) "SEVILLA" is a reflective meditation on the period in medieval Spain when Christian, Jew, and Muslim co-existed in relative peace. During the 10th century in Spain (aka al-Andalus or Sepharad) scholars translated Aristotle into Arabic and deliberated the Greek Wisdom Schools. The three faiths co-existed Toledo, Granada, and Sevilla while sharing cultural, scientific, and artistic information. Considering the intolerance prevalent today; the cross-cultural curiosity & symbiosis of that time remains an inspiration.
6) "GUARABE´" (Clare Fischer/BMI) is a work originally recorded by Clare’s Grammy-winning septet "Salsa Picante". I consider my time as a drummer in that band (’79-81) as a high point in my experience as a sideman. Clare's music continues to inspire me with its originality, structural integrity, and sheer beauty.
7) "THE PATH OF CHANGE" is an episodic “Latin rhythmic chamber jazz” work which originally began evolving in 1981 (before I moved from LA to NYC). An earlier quintet version was released on “Further Dance” (1997). This orchestration was completed in December 2009.
“The Roland Vazquez (Big) Band originally appeared at clubs in NYC, schools, and festivals starting in 1991. Based around my quintet at that time (Walt Weiskopf, tenor sax; Mark Soskin, piano; Anthony Jackson, contrabass guitar; Frank Malabé, congas); the horn sections grew from those who had played on “Tides of Time” (Ted Nash, Brian Lynch, Keith O’Quinn, Jack Schatz) – and players I met while teaching at Manhattan School of Music (Tony Kadleck, Joel Frahm, Alex Norris, Dave LaLama). Other players featured in those early years include: Ricardo Candelaria, Mike Davis, Andy Gravish, Stefon Harris, Joe Locke, Dave Mann, Ben Monder, Chris Potter, Tim Ries, Emedin Rivera, Scott Wendholt, just to name a few.
In 2009, I received a Recording Grant from Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc. towards support of recording these scores. “The Visitor”, “Urantia”, “Thru a Window”, and “Guarabé” were essentially developed during our performances in the ‘90’s; with “Whirlpool”, “Sevilla”, and “The Path of Change” evolving more recently. While most of these titles have been previously released as quintet or nonet versions, I feel the 19-piece Roland Vazquez Band delivers the most fully-realized performances of these compositions to date. It has been a real gift for me to work with each of these outstanding musicians while preparing, performing, and recording this music. Their individuality of spirit clearly resonates throughout the tracks - and they have succeeded in lifting this music “off the page”.
-Roland Vazquez (April 2010)
Recorded Feb 28, March 1-2, “The Visitor” (RVD7007) was made possible in part through the generous support of the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc. Recording Grant Program.
Mastered by Allan Tucker, TuckerSound at Foothil Digital (tuckersound.com)
(DOWNBEAT DEC 2010) Roland Vazquez The Visitor RVCD 7007 (★★★★½) In the seven composi-tions that make up this ambitious project, composer-drummer Roland Vazquez applies an orchestral colorist’s ear to a big band’s 13-horn palette, moving in Afro-Cuban time with a foundation of clave, tumbao and montuno. The result stands up to repeated listening. The star of The Visitor is Vazquez’s luminous, precise writing, with an intriguing rhythm section of first-class New York-based players that effectively functions as an orchestra within the orchestra, playing from written-out parts. Vazquez is up front, conducting instead of playing, so for his drummer’s drummer, he calls on Ignacio Berroa, whose insistent hat and cymbal drive the train and provide a grid for the percussive commentary of conguero Samuel Torres and the album’s most fre-quent soloist, pianist Luis Perdomo. Instead of the more predictable upright, there’s electric bassist James Genus, while electric guitar and vibes make for a welter of orchestral doublings that fuse now with the piano, now with brass and reeds. The drums seem a little lower in the mix than is usual these days, leaving their kinetic function unimpaired while making more playspace for tempos and the shifting densities of the horn voicings. The harmony is continually surprising, the structural bag of tricks is deep, and despite the music’s seri-ous mien, the orchestra-tion is playful. The big-group live-miking by Todd Whitelock admirably exploits the sound of one of the few still-extant classic New York rooms, Clinton Studio A (where Perdomo played his piano parts on the Kind Of Blue Steinway D). All the compositions are by Vazquez, except for an arrangement of “Guarabe” by Clare Fischer, with whom Vazquez played. It feels like a single large work with many smaller parts; with the shortest cut clocking in at eight-and-a-half minutes, the listener may not perceive ends-and-begins. The Visitor is one more indication that the present generation of composers and performers has reimagined the orchestra from the rhythm up. Kudos to the Aaron Copland Fund for Music for helping underwrite it. —Ned Sublette
(JAZZTIMES 12/10/10) Roland Vazquez Band/ The Visitor
By Michael J. West
With The Visitor, drummer Roland Vazquez joins the ranks of Maria Schneider and Darcy James Argue as a
visionary composer of contemporary big-band jazz. This, it’s no surprise, is the Latin version. It’s that
flavoring that is Vazquez’s greatest advantage on the disc; the hand percussion and salsa-fied piano licks
guarantee its sumptuous beauty. Though kinetic and danceable, the band’s going concern is sweetness. They never overwhelm the proceedings with heat; the rock backbeat of “Whirlpool” and Afro-Cuban flair on Clare Fischer’s
“Guarabe’” come close, but in each case the woodwinds play flowing legato backgrounds, keeping the tunes
in check. Meanwhile pieces like “Urantia” and “The Path of Change” unfurl with ease; the former is a
quick, light salsa whose demeanor is a luxurious ballad, the latter a gently rolling groove with hope tinting
every phrase. Hope, in fact, is the album’s preeminent mood, and the musicians articulate it well—via restraint from both
ensemble and soloists. With 22 musicians (not including Vazquez, who only conducts here), there’s a lot of
detail to listen to, but certain players do dominate. Alto saxophonist Aaron Heick might be called the star of
the show: He takes magnificent solos on four of the album’s seven tracks, but is equally important as a
structural component for “Thru A Window” and “Sevilla.” Likewise, enough can’t be said of pianist Luis
Perdomo and his determinedly smiling chords, or of the omnipresent soft lilt from percussionist Samuel
Torres. Yet The Visitor is ultimately Vazquez’s music…and his triumph.
(JAZZIZ / JAN2011) Roland Vazquez Band / The Visitor (RVCD)
Although he earned his stripes as a Latin jazz artist in the time-honored way, absorbing knowledge of elemental
Afro-Cuban rhythms as a percussionist in Clare Fischer’s 1970’s-era West Coast combo Salsa Picante, Roland Vazquez
was a maverick from the beginning. While his tenure with the pianist’s band was relatively brief, he was strongly influenced
by Fischer’s passion for composition and willingness to bend rules and blend genres. On his own in the early ’80s, Vazquez quickly made a name for himself as a different breed of Latin jazz cat, placing his trap set in the center of the rhythmic vortex and creating a fusion of stylistic elements that has evolved into what he today terms “Afro-Latin chamber jazz.”
The Visitor, an explosion of orchestral brilliance made possible by a grant from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, is by
far his most ambitious effort. It features arrangements that channel the energy and intricacy of original compositions Vazquez recorded years ago with his small ensemble into masterworks for an all-star big band. The charts merge rhythmic intensity, contrasting layers of harmonically dense brass and reed voicings, and impassioned soloinginto a majestic whole.
With the leader focused on conducting the demanding arrangements, Cuban drummer Ignacio Berroa and Colombian
[i]conguero[i] Samuel Torres anchor the dream rhythm section. The moods created and influences tapped are many. The opening track, “Urantia,” begins regally with a brass choir evoking classic Copland. “Thru a Window” opens serenely with pianist Luis Perdomo’s lissome musings before a hurricane-like surge of crackling percussion and big-band machismo is unleashed. The idyllic title track is accented by Roger Rosenberg’s mesmerizing bass clarinet licks set against edgy harmonies in the horn section while “Whirlpool” mixes funky, ‘70s style fusion elements with the swagger of Henry Mancini’s early ’60s “Peter Gunn” jazz-cum-rock experiment. The album’s lone non-original, “Guarabe,” a tribute to its composer, Clare Fischer, rounds out the stylistically daring program with a reverential nod to the bedrock Latin jazz sound that
started Vazquez on his three-decade-long journey of music discovery. —Mark Holston