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CD Review: Nick Biello - Vagabond Soul



Nick Biello – Soprano, alto saxophones and synthesizers

Phil Markowitz – Piano

John Benitez – Bass

Clarence Penn – Drums Vincent Lionti – Viola Paul Jones – Tenor saxophone Andrew Renfroe – Guitar

Record Label: Truth Revolution Records

New York based saxophonist Nick Biello balances vibrant spontaneity with intricate and engaging compositions on his exciting release Vagabond Soul. On six originals, a standard and two brief interludes. Biello showcases his instrumental virtuosity and his masterful leadership skills. The music goes from earthy and soulful to hypnotically effervescent. The title track for instance has a loose swing and a funky groove. Guitarist Andrew Renfroe lets loose blistering and bluesy tones, while Biello and tenor saxophonist Paul Jones duet with muscular swagger and lithe elegance. The band embellishes the tune with clever twists demonstrating the synergy among its members.

Drummer Clarence Penn ushers in the conclusion with a rumbling and energetic solo. In contrast, on the breezy “Spiraling” Biello’s lines soar effortlessly over the rhythmic flourishes in captivating and mellifluous refrains. Renfroe improvises with intelligence and refreshing originality. Pianist Phil Markowitz matches Renfroe’s inventiveness with fluid and resonant chords that coalesce into a charming soliloquy. The folkish “Piccolo,” on the other hand, has an expansive ambience with languid bittersweet refrains that Biello’s soprano and violist Vincent Lionti’s strings weave together. Bassist John Benitez takes center stage with lyrical and eloquent phrases that meander among Markowitz’s sparkling keys and Penn’s splashing cymbals.

Biello stretches out with romanticism and passion in a short, yet exquisite extemporization that dovetails seamlessly into the main melody.Biello even experiments with electronics as he creates a cinematic and otherworldly atmosphere on thebrief “Antonio.” Eerie synthesizer effects construct an ethereal sonic backdrop against which angularthumping bass and mournful horns echo.Vagabond Soul is a bold and engaging album. The performances are rooted in the mainstream, yet theyflirt with more adventurous sub-genres. Above all, it is stylistically unique and thematically cohesive and hasenough variety to grip and thrill from first note to the last. Biello has definitely recorded a memorable debut.

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