Justin Vasquez: Triptych





Triptych (Triptych Works)

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Justin Vasquez (sax), Aaron Parks (piano), Adam Rogers (guitar), Clarence Penn (drums), Gretchen Parlato (vocals), Orlando Le Fleming (bass), Gregoire Maret (harmonica).

Composed by Justin Vasquez.


Recorded: New York City, 2008.


Rating: 98/100 (learn more)

Contemporary jazz commands such a wide playing field. On one end there’s the kind you hear in grocery stores and elevators — non-challenging, unobtrusive, comfortable, background music. On the opposite end you’ll find teeth-grinding, edge-of-the-envelope avant-garde shock and awe. Slightly south of this postmodernist maelstrom, you will find jazz that’s edgy and challenging to the mind, but not hard on the heart or ears. This is where the music of composer/sax man Justin Vasquez lives. On his debut solo album, Triptych, he stakes his claim solidly in the new frontier.

The title cut "Triptych" can best be described as a mind-blowing journey through an altered modal universe. Beginning prosaically enough with a simple samba figure on Aaron Parks' piano, a ghostly voice joins in (the marvelous Gretchen Parlato), lifting the light, modal theme away from the confines of common time into 7/8, alternated with odd measures. An upbeat unison head ushers in a challenging platform for guitarist Adam Rogers’ free-range improvisations under which the ground seems to be constantly shifting.  Unfazed, Rogers delivers lucid, provocative finger runs bubbling off the fretboard without losing altitude or focus — a joy to hear. Then the piano growls, setting up the mystic transition into the sax solo. With deadly punctuation from Penn’s drums, Vasquez’ throaty tenor-like alto becomes a cauldron of wailing intensity threatening to peel the paint off the sonic wall.

Though this piece is not likely to be heard in elevators, serious listeners will definitely be elevated.

Reviewer: Bill Barnes


  • 1 Ralph A. Miriello // Apr 20, 2009 at 12:12 PM
    Bill: You are so right about this song and frankly most of the album doesn't disappoint. You beat me to the punch. Nice job. Ralph