After almost thirty years in jazz Eric Vaughn this 58 year old pianist/composer can start to see things turn his way with the national release of his latest offering Minor Relocation set to drop on August 07, 2012. Vaughn is a wake up call on piano for most with a style that seems to effortlessly fuse elements of Thelonious Monk, Art Tatum and McCoy Tyner with a more modern approach. Vaughn is not shy about his classical influences as well and musical melting pot that results is certainly richer for it.
Having lived in Seattle for the last 12 years, Minor Relocation is a slight play on words or riff if you well on this pianist move back to the Bay Area from which he now calls home. Most new releases are done in a year - tops. Vaughn knocked out Minor Relocation in three years and the release while steeped in Vaughn's original work also includes such iconic standards as "Stella By Starlight" and "On Green Dolphin Street." The fascinating aspect of Vaughn is his life and the inner connection to jazz. Having to take a day job is certainly not unusual. Vaughn currently works as an in-home health care provider for elderly and disabled people. Combine his day job with his creative efforts performing along the coast and at Savanna Jazz which is a popular hot spot on Mission Street in San Francisco and you have someone that does far more than play jazz, he lives it while bringing joy and hope to those both able and disabled in this life. A remarkable accomplishment.
Opening with the title track "Minor Relocation" we find Vaughn fusing a hard bop with a more modern-esque approach, sort of a McCoy Tyner on steroids type of swing that is as infectious as it is deceptively subtle. From a pure compositional approach with shifting meter and changing dynamics, Vaughn cuts a wide and deep path through the very epicenter of modern jazz piano. The minor based and blues infused "Tune For Trane" is indeed a groove you can use. Swing straight from the soul.
"On Green Dolphin Street" and "Stella By Starlight" can and would more closely resemble a more refined hotel lounge player but under the deft hand of Vaughn they tug at an emotional string as though they were original works. A fresh voice and a new breed of swing has Vaughn hitting a home run right out of the box on this stellar release. Modern jazz piano has in some cases become cumbersome, tedious and a bit stale. Vaughn elevates modern jazz piano back to a pristine elevation of harmonic clarity and lyrical invention.
While at 58 many would scoff at this Bay Area pianist/composer even attempting a release of this nature. I may never meet Vaughn but I started writing about jazz at 49 so for me Vaughn is a kindred spirit. Having played jazz for the last three decades myself, I hear a connection and when I read of his adventure I feel in his music the life he has led and the music he so loves.
Tracks: Minor Relocation; Funny Waltz; Alone Together; Eric's Samba; Joyce; Jackpot Blues; On Green Dolphin Street; Tune For Trane; Stella By Starlight; On Green Dolphin Street (Take 2); Stella By Starlight ( Take 2).
Personnel: Eric Vaughn: piano; Bob Kenmotso: tenor saxophone; Mark Bullis: bass; Nate Omdal: bass; John Wiitala: bass; Kent Brison: drums; Jamiel Nance: drums; Nicholas Quitevis: drums; Bernie Williams: flute.