Maximalist – Vorcza
It is sometimes easy to forget that, though they developed in the wild
weirdness of Goddard College, Phish was very much were part of a vibrant
music scene that coalesced in Burlington in the early 1990s. Though the
bands ranged from progressive units (Stacey Starkweather's Option Anxiety)
to downright sweet swing outfits (the Jazz Mandolin Project) to spaced out
big bands (viperHouse), there was a common sound that crept into them. One
might be tempted to call it some variation on "hippie," though that seems
both too easy and not quite descriptive enough. Nonetheless, much of the
music from the period exudes genuinely laid back grooves, like a trace
element of reggae introduced into the musical pool.
The project continues today. Vorcza – a new trio comprised of keyboardist
Ray Paczkowski, bassist Rob Morse, and drummer Gabe Jarrett – has all the
credibility they need. Never mind the Trey Anastasio Band (which Paczkowski now
calls his day job), these cats were in viperHouse (Paczkowski and Morse) and
the original Jazz Mandolin Project (Jarrett). The conversations on
Maximalist are anything but. Though certainly far from minimal, they
are – at the very least – leisurely. There is no crazed speed playing, no
grooves-for-the-funk of it, and no need for either.
The dialogues between melodic leader Paczkowski and the rhythm section are
downright leisurely. Where most musicians might be quick to toss off phrases
and fills, the members of the trio speak slowly and enunciate. Paczkowski in
particular is in fine form on songs like the Morse-penned "Adios Pinochet,"
where he sustains long, subtle organ swells that get progressively busier
before adding piano to the mix. With its infinitely pausing chords, "We Live
In Hopes" sounds like the slowest spiritual ever recorded. It is nice to
hear an album of this disposition (read: jamband jazz) that leaves both the
organ and funk (mostly) behind. "Goya," for example, blends piano with the
oddly swinging sounds of an mbira, an African thumb piano.
The band's songs aren't particularly memorable, nor their musical flights
all too cathartic. Like the best jazz albums, though, what dominates is a
mood. And though this might not be one of the most wholly original moods
ever created, it's still a mature take on an idea that has been percolating
in Burlington for the past 10 years. Vorcza still have a fair bit of
development to do, and hopefully they will be allowed the time to do just
that. After all, it took a decade or so to develop this collective
vocabulary. Hopefully, they'll stick together long enough to use it.