JAZZ ALBUM REVIEWS IN THE AUSTRALIAN
In September, 2017 Eric Myers commenced reviewing jazz albums in the Review supplement of The Weekend Australian. All reviews in this folder are written by Myers.
Point In Time
Published in the Weekend Australian, March 16, 2019
I’m in two minds about this album. On the surface it is an immaculate example of small-group modern jazz, recorded in New York. Nic Vardanega is a talented Australian guitarist who in 2015 was nominated for a Bell Award for young Australian jazz artist of the year. He’s been living in NY for over two years, and has completed a masters of music in jazz studies from New York University. This is his second album, the first Inverno released in 2014. The music on Point In Time ticks many boxes: seven well-written Vardanega compositions with interesting harmonic structures, and a variety of rhythmic time-feels; a dynamic New York rhythm section (Jakob Dreyer, acoustic bass and Josh Roberts, drums); and American Michael Rodriguez on trumpet & flugelhorn, a brilliant, fluent improviser. (Think Chet Baker in terms of sound and lyricism, but with a more advanced technique). Yet, at the same time, there is a context surrounding this album. For many years the bar for Australian modern jazz guitarists has been set very high by James Muller, known for his formidable technique. Compared to Muller, Vardanega’s playing sounds somewhat sedate. Many listeners will warm to Vardanega’s more introverted style but my feeling is that a more risk-taking, devil-may-care, approach from this talented guitarist, might have considerably increased the album’s appeal. Closing track Club Soda is a spirited, somewhat dirty, funk/soul number without the benefit of Rodriguez’s participation. Here Vardanega leaves behind his exquisite Jim Hall-like sound, and flirts with Jimi Hendrix territory. It’s a full-blooded indication of what he might be capable of, if he was more able to let his hair down, and move into overdrive.