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Published: 2002/04/22
by Ray Hogan

Flea Market – Vinyl

Fog Shack Music 508

The batting average for relatively new bands combining elements of
jazz, funk, reggae, etc. into a cohesive sound is staggeringly low
considering the proliferation of them over the past decade or so. Report
cards would barely reach the passing mark for most of the American groups
hoping to create a global sound. Most have their strong points (in an
inspired horn section, a gift for world-inflected Peter Gabriel type pop, a
knack for reggae rhythms, etc.) but fail to marry the myriad elements
trying to integrate.

Vinyl is an exception. With friends in Phil Lesh, Les Claypool and Bernie Worrell (the last two make appearances on this disc), Vinyl, an instrumental group, is obviously winning over the right kind of admirer. No surprise judging from Flea Market, the 15 cut disc where the eight-piece Northern California-based outfit blends everything from funk, reggae, and an assortment of jazz into a highly unique and consistent sound.

The group is anchored by the informed rhythm section of bassist Geoff
Vaughan, drummer Alexis Razon (who is especially stellar throughout), and
percussionists Antonio and Sean Onarato. Whether exploring deep Latin
rhythms, deep funk or dub reggae, these guys are not only rock solid in
providing authenticity but also inventive. It's their bedrock that gives the
horn section of Doug Thomas (sax, flute) and Danny Cao (trumpet and
flugelhorn) room to so ably fly. Both horn men pack a lot of emotional
into their lines.

Perhaps Vinyl's wide range of talent is best examined through "Summertime,"
the disc's only standard. The long running jazz joke is "How many female
vocalists does it take to cover 'Summertime'?" The answer: "Apparently all
them." No matter how many times the Gershwin chestnut has been mined, it's
many listeners will be prepared for the amount of interesting directions
Vinyl takes the over-played classic. The song starts with a bluesy, Rahsaan
Roland Kirk horn-line. It's turned into a reggae tune and
psychedelia-meets-prog-rock keyboard exercise before it's over. And it's
brilliant, giving all members of the group (guitarist Billy Frates' solo is
especially tasty) room to move.

There's plenty more like it too. "Ano Neuvo" creates a pleasant Latin groove before taking a 180 into hard rock land. Vinyl sculpts such a deep sound that guest appearances by Claypool and Worrell (who share a co-writing credit each) almost seem insignificant. Guest vibraphonist Michael Rizzo, however, shines on the beautiful contemporary (not to be confused with smooth) jazz composition of "Remember".

"Flea Market" has the occasional drawback. The straight-ahead dub of the
title track fails to say anything and Frates and keyboardist Jonathan Korty
sometimes – though rarely – find themselves out of place. These are small
detractions considering how Vinyl has codified the sound and feel so many
other musicians are after. "Flea Market" offers something for fans of just
about any style.

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