Nick Vayenas – Some Other Time
(Whirlwind Recordings. WR4640. CD Review by Jeanie Barton)
Trumpeter, trombonist and singer Nick Vayenas cuts a stylish and filmic silhouette on his album artwork with more than a hint of a likeness to Daniel Craig’s pouting Bond. His music is a varied collection of pumping funky instrumentals and wistful classic ballads. A New York vibe permeates all the tracks which were recorded in Brooklyn - one might imagine this charismatic multi-instrumentalist and singer would have made a desirable suitor for any of the girls in Sex and the City…
But behave Barton - this Berklee graduate’s repertoire is indeed eclectic. The CD opens with Vayenas’ original, I’m Looking at You in 15/8 which gives another meaning to the album’s title. Influenced by James Brown and a tribute to trombonist Fred Wesley it sets the scene for some slick session work by all participants. Doug Wamble on guitar chops some sassy syncopated lines, Dan Kaufman on piano gels things subtly together with Michael Janisch in the driving seat as bassist and executive producer, also Rudy Royston on drums, who flourishes and punches at the correct weight.
There are a lot of instrumental risks exercised within this record’s arrangements, in stark contrast to Nick’s vocals which are pure, clean and level, not unlike the late, great Chet Baker.
Porter’s So In Love stands out for me; performed as a 6/8 shuffle which busies the superb band as the vocal soars above, like a serene swan on the water, its feet flapping furiously beneath. I like this contrast - it is the best of both worlds, where each element compliments one another. Sadly, the final track, a guitar and vocal duo of Blame It On My Youth, for me, doesn’t capture any emotional expression - a lack of connection with the lyric, minus the fullness of the band relies too heavily on Nick’s vocal interpretation which came across as skin deep.
Vayenas however has undeniable strength as a trumpeter, trombonist, composer and arranger; his technical ability is what you would expect from his training and he perhaps just needs to have his heart bruised some more before he can perform the more vulnerable repertoire Chet mastered so fully.