London born, New York based saxophonist/composer Will Vinson has been one to watch for some time now. Having already released five albums, aligned to the fact that over the last two decades he has become one of the most sought after sidemen on the U.S. jazz scene, it seemed only a matter of time before he released an album that successfully incorporated both his captivating sax playing with a set of fluid, original compositions. “Perfectly Out Of Place” nails all aspects of Vinson’s talent in one foul swoop. Of course, it always helps to have great musicians around you, and with Gonzalo Rubalcaba on piano, Fender Rhodes and synths, Mike Moreno on guitar, Matt Penman on bass, and Jeff Ballard on drums, Vinson enjoys some of the best musical company around. Yet what stands out here is not necessarily the individual brilliance of the musicians, but more the intelligence with which the composer’s music is performed. Vinson obviously had a very clear vision of what he wanted this album to be, and to that end, he also employs The Mivos Quartet (strings) to stunning effect, along with additional percussion from Jamey Haddad and vocals from Jo Lawry. “It was an exciting prospect for me.” says Vinson, “One that was made challenging by the stubborn insistence of everyone in the band on making everything sound immediately perfect and unimprovable… you get what you pay for I suppose. I’ve tried to add without inadvertently taking away, and I hope you feel it’s been a success.” The album is thoughtfully produced by Vinson and Rubalcaba, with the use of overdubs, synths, vocals and strings used with a rare skill and expertise, integrated seamlessly with the core band. Vinson talks about his band in glowing terms; “Their importance to this project cannot be overstated, each one of them being irreplaceable. It’s fair to say that my personal aesthetic identity would not be quite what it is without the influence of these masters over the past two decades.”
Listening to “Perfectly Out Of Place” as a whole, the listener gets to hear some unfathomably good performances, not least from the saxophonist himself. For me, Vinson’s music heard here is both exploratory and captivating. The music is very thoughtfully crafted, yet there is still plenty of space for individual improvisation. On more than one occasion as I listen intently, I’m thinking of that sound and feel created by Michael Brecker in the 80’s and ’90s, or more recently Chris Potter, another artist who has integrated strings with his core band, most notably on his album “Imaginary Cities”. The album opener “Desolation Tango” introduces us to this formidable sonic palette, with the strings acting as an alluring introduction to the music that follows. It’s difficult to pin down the composer’s music with anyone generalisation, as each track takes its own path, giving the impression that the composer has confidence and maturity in his writing, along with a well-founded trust in the musicians around him. “Upside” is playfully energetic and slightly whimsical, whilst “Willoughby Central” is calm and collected. The excellent “Skyrider” is the perfect example of how in-tune the band are with the writer’s tunes, with all of the musicians delivering wonderful solos whilst still retaining the balance and nuances of the tune itself. “Limp of Faith” is a slow burner that breathes and flows as an almost contemplative energy, and Stiltskin (Some Drunk Funk) appears to offer up more than a nod and a wink towards the Brecker Brothers. There’s a freshness to “Chalk It Up”, along with some killer performances on “The Clock Killer”, before the album closes with the title track, a tune that successfully mounds all of the composer’s musical intent, with a contemporary, unabashed freedom of playing.