Words by Gabriela Kerson
Vorcza :: 01.06.06 :: Coda :: New York, NY
In the tradition of The Duo and The Slip, Vorcza is a trip to somewhere new. This experimental jazz trio out of central Vermont has been playing together off and on, around their other bands, for eight years. It's not the main project for any of them, but it does seem to be the favorite. It's a space for testing new ideas in music and for stretching the limits. There is no featured member; they play well together, a smooth transition of leadership happening with each chord. Keyboardist Ray Paczkowski (70 Volt Parade) sits behind his 400 pound Hammond Organ that has traveled the country with him. Rob Morse (Viperhouse, Magic City) switches back and forth between electric and upright bass, and Gabe Jarrett (original member of Jazz Mandolin Project) anchors down the stage from behind his drum kit.
Paczkowski has been making a name for himself for the last few years touring with Trey Anastasio, but he seemed freer in this context - smiling and singing out to the audience. There weren't a lot of people at the gig. The first Friday of the year is not a big night for going out as most are still recovering from the holidays. Coda, on Madison and 34th in mid-town Manhattan, is a pretty swanky joint. There's a bathroom attendant and red velvet drapes along the walls. It was hard to approach the stage. There was a sense of a vast expanse of empty space in front of the stage. This was due mostly to the placement of seats, which where in the back and along the walls, making the audience extremely visible. However, as the band took the stage, we relaxed and by mid-set there was a good crowd gathered.
It was a short but extremely intense series of songs. They started out strong and funky, Morse dancing with the electric bass and Paczkowski noodling a little bit while Jarrett kept the rhythm, hitting deep and hard. The first song seemed to be a bit of stretching, both physically and musically, after the long drive from Vermont into the city. It started quickly and was quickly over. On the next tune, Morse switched to the upright bass, and along with the deeper tone came a more serious feel from the entire trio. They still bounced a little as they played, Paczkowski back and forth, Morse up and down. It was a laid-back, hot number. Paczkowski had an alternate drum track playing, and there was the slight sound of the ever-popular cowbell. Their non-verbal communication was brilliant to watch. Morse stopped playing, and Jarrett and Paczkowski parleyed a little, maneuvering to be the one to play the final note before Jarrett ended the song with a crescendo.
Ray Paczkowski :: Vorcza
They played "Shine" off their new album Corner of the Morning with Paczkowski singing, his voice deep, growly, and pleasing, although the vocals were a little muddy. The instrumentation was phenomenal, rhythm and tone being passed between three distinctive layers in the music, the organ high, the drums in the middle, and the bass low down and slightly dirty.
The next few songs took on a strange tension. There was no commitment; they jumped between New Orleans-type jams and out-there jazz experimental every measure. For three musicians as highly accomplished as these, it makes sense that this is their space to push the borders. It was easy to appreciate but difficult to listen to. Too soft, hard, fast, slow, new wave keys replaced by staccato drumbeats and rapid two-handed plucking on the upright bass. As they moved deeper into their creation, I felt for a minute like I was caught on an out-of-control Ferris Wheel, spinning around, up and down, held in by treble notes. Then just as quickly, I was safe, supported by the strong arm of a solid bass and drum beat. I saw a slight smile on Paczkowski's face; this is definitely his element. They kept us in this strange space for a good 20 minutes, pushing the envelope but always returning just before they lost us completely.
Rob Morse :: Vorcza
To end the show, they invited guitarist Dave Diamond (Turkey Bouillon Mafia) to join them. His entrance changed the dynamic completely. Gone was the avant garde sound of an autonomous, experimental threesome, replaced by a technically refined band with a friend sitting in. Diamond and Paczkowski had a visible connection, almost a teacher/student vibe. Morse and Jarrett seemed to draw closer together, and they closed out the show gently. They were playing, and then they were done. There was a strange lack of closure. They had expanded and spun out my brain with their adventures in jazz, and before I left some more straight-forward music would have allowed for closure. Something to hold on to, instead of the ephemeral sounds that floated away into the night.
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