Michael Vlatkovich Trio – Succulence of Abstraction (2013)

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Trombonists don’t typically have the audacity to be featured with no chordal help like a piano or guitar, but I can’t imagine Mike Vlatkovich performing any other way. The adventurous trombone specialist performs with verve and wit, but his technique is also fundamentally sound, too. Those attributes were hard to miss when checking out Rich Halley’s various releases covered here over the last several years, and it’s even more difficult to escape notice when Vlatkovich heads up his own band.

Succulence of Abstraction is the second for this certain rendition of the Michael Vlatkovich Trio, featuring Kent McLagen on bass and Chris Lee on drums. Recorded live in Albuquerque, the little combo rips through fifteen of Vlatkovich’s originals where his humor already surfaces in the titles, like “Faith Beads and Other Amusements,” “I Let My Magic Tortoise Go,” and “The Snakes Always Talk About Ill Fitting Clothes On The Chickens.” Except for the final track “Always Connection,” all the songs were performed in alphabetical order. But, let’s talk about the music…

First of all, music like this, so austere, extemporary and emotionally direct, is better served in a live setting, so shunning the studio makes perfect sense, here. Also, this is actually two uninterrupted sets lasting fifty-nine minute combined, with each set subdivided into seven and eight tracks, respectively. In other words, it’s a couple of medleys.

Vlatkovich & Co. do perform composed music but feel is the larger component. And these guys are aware that “feel” means a lot more than just chops. Compared to his work with Halley, the leader is calculating more, since he’s carrying a bigger load in the small combo so he makes his notes particularly laconic. The trio goes down harmonic paths they rarely or never revisit again, sometimes swingin’, sometimes groovin’.

The interaction between Vlatkovich and McLagen is a main focal point, sometimes they sync up on melodic lines and other times they’re going on separate, parallel paths, and McLagen assumes front line duties as an equal with Vlatkovich as well as holding down the bottom, and he does both with ease. Lee has an appropriately light touch on his drums, preferring to make impressions with complex, interesting patter over boisterous beats. The “The Talentless Judging The Overreaching” stands out from the rest of the fare because McLagen puts a bow to his bass and all three are playing sans tempo; it’s a closely connected three-way improvisation.

Mike Vlatkovich and his Trio make no-nonsense, highly improvisational jazz that travels across nearly every mood and thrives in the moment. You can’t ask for more than that in a live jazz show. That’s just what some folks in New Mexico got that day, and what everyone else will get from this fine document of that concert.

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Succulence of Abstraction is available via Thankyou Records. BUY IT HERE.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

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