If it’s true absence that makes the heart grow fonder, it may also be true that absence makes the band grow stronger. Judging by Vorcza’s second set at Burlington Vermont’s Red Square March 28th, that would seem to be the case.
With bassist Robinson Morse back in town on a break from his studies in New York City, the Green Mountain jazz trio may have never gotten this tiny place to vibrate more resoundingly than on this late winter evening. It wasn’t so much a matter of new material or a tangible change in direction or approach either. Drummer Gabe Jarrett, keyboardist Ray Pazckowski and Morse egged each other on to create more emphatic rhythms more clearly defined melodies and more unified empathy than even their eight-year tenure together would suggest.
There’s not a trace of collective ennui evident in Vorcza perhaps because the judiciously scheduled live gigs of 2008—Bonnaroo, snoe.down—provide them a collective fresh perspective. But it wasn’t just Jarrett soloing with panache on “Congoman” or Paczkowski’s customary frenetic approach to his clavinet and organ. Morse acted as much as he appeared—standing between his two compatriots—the literal and figurative link within the trio: playing electric bass, an instrument he once seemed uncomfortable holding, the bespectacled bassist kept the threesome moving briskly, alternately outside the melodic pattern of the tune or more deeply within its beat.
Vorcza thrives on its tight-knit unity but they remain confident enough to accommodate guests, which this Friday night included guitarists with distinctly different styles. Michael Lewis Smith flowed lightly over under sideways and down the music as he played, emphasizing the internal motion of the band. In contrast, the loud abstract sounds Greg Matses squeezed from his instrument threatened to derail the momentum of the music.
It’s a credit to Jarrett, Morse and Pazckowski they didn’t let the music grind to a halt because of that on “F/T.” Or let the hubbub of the bar atmosphere get in the way either: that itself seemed a source of inspiration to their good-natured approach: they dug deeper into their playing, Morse once again took an aggressive stance to restore the balance as well as the drive of what they were doing.
Judging from the grins all around, as the music ended with a flourish, Vorcza was loving it as much as everyone else paying attention in the close quarters of Red Square.