The album opens with Billy Holiday’s “God Bless the Child.” The shuffle rhythms of Lucas Pettey (bass) and Owen Rockwell (drums) create a more light-hearted version than Holiday’s original. Of course, it is hard to be saddened by the sound of the vibes but the trio does keep an appropriate tone. Mathena’s version of the vocal lines are well-received and Pettey is splendid on bass.
Wayne Shorter’s “Yes and No” is covered so very well. Rockwell is swinging and Pettey gets in some excellent bottom work. Mathena does a bright treatment of the melodic lines against Pettey’s bit of funk. One has to appreciate the boldness of the song selection of these guys and the way in which the trio handles these classics.
Of course, I thought they had lost their minds when I realized that they were going from Shorter into John Coltrane’s “Impressions.” However, they created a seamless flow from “Yes and No” into “Impressions.” Pettey and Rockwell keep up the rhythm through the transition and the vibes are insightful.
At this point, I was all in for this album. To move from Shorter to Coltrane so fluidly and effortlessly and not do harm to either is excellent work. The beauty of the combined pieces was extraordinary.
The vibes move from the melodic in “Yes or No” to the ambient in “Impressions” is done with a sense of inevitable continuation. The rhythms go from one song into the other with a pseudo-samba feel. Then the melody inserts itself into the central rhythms and something wonderful happens. An atmosphere of meditation is created and it is one of the most rewarding things ever.
“29” is an original by vibraphonist Jason Mathena. The slow-paced melody is wistful and delicate. There is a touch of the Blues, as well, that adds a certain depth. It is a lovely piece.
“Dr. Funk” was written by Mathena, Pettey and Rockwell. Pettey opens the track, quickly joined by Rockwell with Mathena bringing the melody in tow. While the groove is the thing, the melody compliments, instead of distracts from, the rhythm. They certainly adhere to Bootsy Collins’ dictum to “Never let the melody get in the way of the groove.”
“The Moment” is another original from the trio. Contrary to “Dr. Funk.” “The Moment” is melody-driven and a lovely melody it is. Sweet passages and creative modulations of tone and time set this piece apart.
George Gershwin’s “Summertime” is one of the most covered standards of all time…but not like this. Pettey carries on a funky bass line against Rockwell’s shuffle beat. Mathena, on the other hand, keeps relatively straight to the melody until the middle section where he adds his own funk and flair. The trio breathes new life into one of the best pieces ever composed.
“Dr. 7” is the final original on the album. The piece has a dream-like introduction but then kicks into some sweet Florida funk. The sub-tropical rhythms and movements make for a solid underpinning for the cool melodies of the vibes. Sweet swinging here.
Freddie Hubbard’s “Red Clay” is a hot Jazz bit. Pettey nails a steady rhythm with Rockwell breaking up the beat. It is as charged as Hubbard liked it. Mathena takes on Freddie’s horn lines and the result is as hot as it should be.
Rockwell keeps up the rhythm into the Rodgers and Hart classic “My Funny Valentine.” This is more of a bossa nova version and it works.
Miles Davis said this was a beautiful melody but had been done to death. Maybe Vibe Doctors had that quote in mind because this version uses the chord structure with simple repetition of the melodic line. This is a creative and original arrangement of a song so often recorded.
Paul Desmond’s “Take 5” is a fun Jazz piece with another great melody. Easily recognizable, it is completely enjoyable to hear the vibes take on the sax part of the original.
“Vibe Doctors” the album and Vibe Doctors the trio make for an extraordinary Jazz set. The interpretive vision of the trio is vivid and enlightening. The original compositions are fresh and fascinating while the covers are refreshing and equally fascinating. We can only hope to hear much more from Vibe Doctors.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl
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