Trombonist Nick Vayenas has a modern and progressive jazz aesthetic in his soul, accented by youth, futuristic sounds, and fueled by a fertile imagination. The signposts of where he is coming from lie in the stances of contemporary icons -- the Latin insignias of Conrad Herwig, the harmonic stylings of Robin Eubanks, and the electronic experiments of Julian Priester. For this, his debut recording, he has chosen potent sidemen like drummer Kendrick Scott and keyboardist Aaron Parks to craft and shape his identity into this music. But fear not -- some hard swinging jazz is here too, as the bopping influence of Curtis Fuller is heard on "Odeon," supported by a small horn section and Scott's strident drumming. Post-bop and fusion collide during "The Essence," with Parks on Fender Rhodes painting clear broad melodic strokes with Vayenas. A combination of New Orleans swing, New York certainty, and Sun Ra like cerebral spaciousness makes "Assembly Line" traditional and modern at once, while the hip, contemporary "Voyager" dangles synth with piano and trombone on a dance groove edge. The evidence of Priester's visage via his great ECM CD Love, Love comes out on the pensive, reverberating title cut featuring the wordless vocals of Gretchen Parlato, while the stealth, carefully rendered "Dissolution" offers a similar stance sans singing, plus harmonic overtones. Vayenas further offers an ECM drift on the low level ascending and descending dynamics of the lovely piece "Along the Way," and breezes through "Soaring." While others in the band play with effects, Vayenas, whose sound is quite mature, seems to prefer a relatively unfiltered and non-processed 'bone. An album worth exposing oneself and listening to more than once, it's a valiant opening salvo for a new musician on the scene whose star should rise quickly.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos