NYCJAZZVIBES.com

“J'OURVET”

TOM BERICH and THOMAS MACKAY

 

Vibraphonist Thomas Mackay has teamed with steel pan player Tom Berich to produce “Jourvet,” a tasty collection of grooving tunes, no doubt inspired by the native vibes of their local surroundings: the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The pair has chosen a decidedly different format than the norm, assembling a band of vibraphone, steel drums, bass and drums—no keyboard, no guitar. This gives the music an original touch, as Mackay and Berich take turns accompanying each other with chords, filling the sonic space that would normally be occupied by one of the aforementioned “mainstay” instruments.

The record kicks off with “Suk-Kyo’s Samba,” which begins with a riff voiced in fourths, doubled by vibes and pan. It’s an effective opening, as it is clear from the beginning this is going to be a grooving affair, in the island-flavored tradition of steel pan icon Andy Narell. Berich demonstrates a nice sense of dynamics, phrasing melodies that are relatively simple but effective. Again, the lack of additional chordal instruments allows the groove to breathe—a nice departure from many records which are harmonically cluttered. Next is “Unagi,” essentially a cha-cha, with a pan melody and vibes accompaniment. Mackay digs in percussively a bit here, when doubling the melody, and the effect is nice. Berich shows his ability to get around the pan, taking a nice, albeit brief solo, followed by one of Mackay’s best improvisational moments on the record (also brief).

The third track is “Buzz,” a composition by the great vibraphonist/Steps Ahead bandleader Mike Mainieri, for which Mackay and also this writer share a deep affinity. The bass/drum combo of Mike Pugh and Scott Mangicaro get to set this one up, and proceed to lay down a tight, funky foundation—as they do throughout the record. Here, Berich alternates between staccato, metallic punctuations and longer, flowing lines, showing that he really understands the nuances of his instrument, and has spent a great deal of time exploring its possibilities. Mackay takes a nice solo also, going “outside” the tonality briefly, and also managing to quote both the phraseology of Miles Davis and Mainieri himself! Here, he stretches more than on other tracks, and it is effective.  

Two Narell compositions are presented here: “Izo’s Mood,” and “Chakalaka.” It’s an appropriate choice of material, given that Narell, in steel drum circles, could be likened to vibraphone icons Mainieri or Gary Burton, in terms of the impact he has had on the evolution of his instrument. Mackay seems connected to this material as well, offering up some choice arpeggios while allowing the instrument to ring. In fact, this is a general strength for Mackay; there is a tendency among some vibraphonists to mimic other instruments (various horns, for example) to excess, rather than utilize the instrument’s inherent strengths, which includes the ability to sustain long, beautiful notes. In other words, it’s nice to hear the vibraphone being played like a vibraphone. Perhaps one minor criticism, and it’s more technical than musical, is the mixing of the instruments. At various times, both the pan and the vibes seem to find themselves out in front of the band a bit, a small balance issue that could be rectified with minimal editing.

Overall, this is a tasty project, with nice playing, a good choice of material, and a solid groove from start to finish. For fans of tropical-infused jazz, steel drums and vibes, this record will be a great addition to the collection. Makes this writer want to hop on the next flight to Oahu, cruise down to Waikiki Beach and hit the club where these island percussion pros are playing live!

-Anthony Smith
nycjazzvibes.com

Independent review

 Nice fat vibes sound and the timbre of vibes and steel pan is deliscious. Recording is crisp and nice variety in the material. Rhythm section is crispy! I kept thinking Donald Fagen was going to sing on a "Buzz" and "Dem Feel Good". Congrats.

Bill Ware  ( jazz passengers, groove collective. steely dan)

independent review

 This is a collection of nice Island/Reggae relaxed grooves and melodies which fit the style well.  T.M. alternates between simple harmonies and a few "sharp elbows" once in awhile to keep everyone on their toes, which I like!  Also like for instance in #4 Reflections an interlude section which has a good accellerando and increase in the velocity/intensity of the playing.  That is a very nice concept which I also want to use more frequently.
The sound quality of this recording was my favorite, all four instruments have a very good sound and presence.  Also want to say that I liked the bass, drums and pans;  what they did and how they did it.  Good players all, Very effective and stylistically right on target. Good and Tasty!

 

 

““Examples include ‘Afterthought’, the opening track on Jackson, and ‘Sphereology’, on which spare, economic work by Mackay maintains the ‘vibes song’ feel. But just when you’re enjoying the application of vibes as a rhythmic, structural component, Mackay steps out and rips, the title track on Jackson being a shining example of the vibes soloist unleashed. — John D’Agostino, host of Johnny D’s Jazz Journal on KSDS-FM/Jazz88.3 in San Diego, CA, and former music columnist for the Los Angeles Times”

 

"What especially comes across in every track of this recording is the uplifting spirit and positive energy that Thomas and the band members bring to the table." Ed Saindon (World acclaimed vibist/ Educator, Berklee College of Music)

Ed Saindon - Independent review

" Thomas is truly one of the most gifted vibes players in the Pacific Northwest area"

" Thomas owes an obvious debt to the great Bobby Hutcherson. With a clear tone, strong chops and good ideas he is also reminiscent of modern vibes masters Bryan Carrott and Joe Locke.A fine debut from a fellow Oregonian." -

Rob Scheps, NYC Jazz icon - independent review of " Jackson"

"Jackson" is the newest release of The Mackay Project. On this CD you will find some wonderful grooves, beautiful ballads, and new compositions by Thomas Mackay. You will enjoy this CD for its variety of music and great playing.

Gordon Stout, Reknown Marimbist/ Educator - Independent