While the band name of one of Asheville’s best-kept secrets touts the group’s jazz leanings, Vertigo Jazz Project is not just a frenetic platform for show-off musicianship or tired standards. Instead, the band’s songs are built around the members knowing when not to play, and the sonic space created in those moments.
At a recent Emerald Lounge show, the band’s playing and not playing meshed with precision as guitarist Preston Cate and keyboardist Justin Powell effortlessly traded off melodies. The result: Something akin to painting canvases of sound with warm splashes of notes.
But the star of Vertigo Jazz Project is the rhythm section, made up of bassist Patrick “Pajamas” Thorstenson and drummer Sean Mason. In their capable hands, song themes shift from hepcat-approved swing beats to mean funk hell-bent on making butts shake.
The melding of traditional jazz and funky jams probably appalls some purists, but the mixture creates an invigorating—and widely approachable—live performance. You needn’t have aced your music-appreciation course for this show. The band leapt from the more traditional Miles Davis-influenced “Madness” with its incessant high-hat snapping and serpentine guitar runs to the Meters-like “Pernafied,” featuring a staggering beat that doubles as a clarion call to the dance floor. Yeah, these guys have chops, but you don’t have to know that to like what you hear.
While the band’s more traditional moments, such as the upbeat and hyperactive “Paco de Loco” were enough to sate the purists in the audience, it was the stickier grooves aimed less at the head and more at the hips that the crowd got behind. As the band launched from song to song—each with a brontosaurus-sized backbeat—more and more listeners were enthralled by the spell of the Vertigo Jazz Project. The performance touched on elements from hard bop to Gypsy jazz and by the end, the audience (this reviewer included) was happily breathless and wondering why all jazz didn’t make them feel that alive, that free and that sweaty.
— Jason Bugg
Andrew Larson’s inner Chelot
There’s a high-mindedness behind multi-instrumentalist Andrew Larson’s solo CD, Saturdays and Sundays (Heights Productions, 2008), released under the alter-ego Chelot. On his Myspace page he posits, “Four ingredients sautéed at just the right temperature and in just the right exacting proportions [create] what Bodhisattva forecast as the eminence of the joy of mankind: MUSIC.”
In fact, many more than four ingredients went into the making of this buzzing, electro-pop-meets-shamanistic prog-rock experiment. Wurlitzer, melodica, ukulele, various guitars and a herd of hand drums top the list, along with Larson’s vocals. In reedy falsetto and effects-heavy tenor he delivers All Things Must Pass-reminiscent ponderings on the meaning of life, the passage of time, and what it is to be human. At times the disc comes off as overly ambitious: an aural mélange in need of focus. Other times Larson finds his center (the waltz-y, Beatles-in-their psychedelics-phase “Gold” is the standout track) and the result proves this composer and producer is one to watch.
Learn more and listen to tracks at www.myspace.com/chelot.
— Alli Marshall