It’s exactly the kind of music you’d expect from a talented musician after a healthy bout of introspection.
Tenor saxophonist Javier Vercher left the epicenter of jazz a couple of years ago, disembarking from NYC to resettle into Valencia, Spain, where he grew up. The time away from the hustle and bustle gave him the space to get more focused on his music and other aspects of his life. When he was ready to put his new perspective to song, he called up his erstwhile partner and master percussionist Ferenc Nemeth to make the record together, their second (the first being Wheel of Time, 2007).
Imaginary Realm is an inner journey, not so much about scales and modes but self-examination and mood. Thusly, songs aren’t necessarily jazz in structure but draws from jazz where there is instead a need to break from the constrictions of structure. “Silent Stones” is a brief, meditative intro, where the beautiful, mystical timbres emanating from Nemeth’s array of percussion seem dictated by the wind; Vercher plays with minimal notes and maximum feel.
“Poets of the East” features Vercher dubbing saxes for low harmony, as the primary sax is in a lead role playing in a style evocative of Jan Garbarek; meanwhile Nemeth is gently playing a swaying groove. Nemeth’s best moment might be “Circles In The Sky,” where his calypso styled percussion is hypnotic and multi layered but also controlled; Nemeth never has to be particularly loud or fast to greatly enrich the tonality the rhythm of a song. The short piece “Sumerian Magic Spell” features Vercher on a wooden African box, an instrument very similar-sounding to a kalimba.
The appearance of David Kikoski’s piano on four of the selections adds another dimension; less sparse, more formal, more developed but remaining jagged and in-the-moment. “Imaginary Realm” presents a romantic melody, moving at a naturally occurring pace. Kikoski is forceful yet delicate, and Vercher is sometimes on edge, doleful but never overdoing it. They combine again for “Form and Meaning,” playing a romantic style over an esoteric strain. Nemeth is sensitively playing to the other two, and Vercher is both emotional and angular like Wayne Shorter. “Giant Henge” is the most festive and conventional sounding song of the batch, boasting a Brazilian groove. Vercher’s sax here shows a rougher side, a la Joe Henderson.
Two versions of “Prana” is played, the first time performed in a very hushed manner with Vercher playing a sax in the left channel and overdubbing another one in the right channel, as Nemeth can be heard off at a distance with his muted brushes and cymbals. The second version includes Kikoski, who reveals more to the gorgeous melody. Nemeth meanwhile is accentuating it with small but meaningful gestures like Paul Motian.
From the sounds coming from Imaginary Realm , it appears that the time Javier Vercher spent away from New York has been time well spent. For that matter, so is any time he spends pairing up with Ferenc Nemeth.
Imaginary Realm is slated for release October 22, by Dreamers Collective Records.