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Artist’s Choice: Guitarist Paul Bollenback on Finding the Vibe

Recordings that grab on first listen and continue to inspire

Photo of Shirley Horn
Shirley Horn (photo by Jimmy Katz)
Antonio Carlos Jobim
Milton Nascimento
Wayne Shorter speaks at the Osaka School of Music, International Jazz Day, Osaka, Japan, April 30, 2014

Every musician has those amazing moments on the bandstand or in the studio when everything is just flowing and the band seems to play as one person. And every listener has those memories of an unforgettable performance or recording that moved them. There is no way to plan it, but you know it when it happens! There is a transportive feeling that just takes over, which seems to take the musicians and the listeners to some other place.

These are some of the recordings that captured me with their vibe and took me along for the ride from the very first listen and with every subsequent listen. They continue to inspire me to try to bring “the vibe” to the music every time I play. My new release on Mayimba Music, Portraits in Space and Time, is all about finding the vibe!

Miles Davis

My Funny Valentine: Miles Davis in Concert (Columbia, rel. 1965)

I love the sheer humanity of Miles’ sound nestled in Herbie Hancock’s warm harmony at the beginning of this track. It sets the tone for the rest of the tune. A live recording, it’s really a moment captured in time. I still get chills even after years of listening to this one.

Dexter Gordon

Homecoming: Live at the Village Vanguard (Columbia, rel. 1977)

The sheer joyful energy of this blues is what got me. The band is giving it 120 percent (Woody Shaw, Ronnie Mathews, Stafford James, Louis Hayes). The vibe on this one makes me want to move my feet, and the guys are really going for it, stretching out. It’s letting it all hang out. Also a live recording, one of a kind, never to be repeated.

Keith Jarrett

Standards, Volume 1 (ECM, 1983)

“All the things?” Really? Yup. I love the looseness and freeness of this trio in its interpretations of standards (with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette). The feeling on this one is that the piano solo is on the brink of going completely free at any moment. It’s almost coloristic, on the edge of the harmony and rhythm of the tune. It’s a vibe of great openness and real risk-taking that stretches out the moment of resolution until you can’t stand it anymore. Then he finally lays down some left-hand harmony at the very end of the solo to wind it up. It just reels you in…and makes me want to go play right now!

Wayne Shorter

Footprints Live! (Verve, 2002)

Talk about setting the tone. The band starts in, creating this kind of spooky, mysterious vibe, and when Wayne enters, the whole thing gains focus and very gently and organically grows. It’s almost like Wayne is the shepherd, guiding the music gently along. The result is captivating…and, another live recording.

Shirley Horn

Here’s to Life (Verve, 1992)

Shirley Horn’s warmth and expressiveness has always created a vibe from the first note. I had the chance to hear her play a lot in the D.C. area in the 1980s. She could bring time to a standstill within just a few phrases. This track was recorded as a trio, and Johnny Mandel added the orchestra after. So the vibe of that trio with Shirley on piano and singing, Charles Ables on bass and Steve Williams on drums, is clearly captured. Gives me chills every time.

Milton Nascimento

Angelus (Warner Bros, 1994)

Something about Milton’s voice just grabs me. I think it’s his humanity and openness. It’s him, his thoughts and emotions, just laid bare. On this track he sets the mood from the rubato intro, and the rest just flows from there. Doesn’t hurt that the band includes Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette and Roberto Silva. I get a very poignant feeling from this track, even though it’s not a slow, moody tune.

Antonio Carlos Jobim

Elis and Tom (Phillips/Verve 1974)

There are so many great tracks on this recording, and such a great vibe overall. I picked this one because the vibe is light-hearted and fun. What really gets me is that at the end when Jobim and Elis Regina are trading words within the lyric, it sounds like she starts to crack up laughing, and just manages to hold on till the end of the track. Gotta smile every time I hear this. It’s a commercial recording, but the performance is real, and very human.

Guitarist Paul Bollenback’s new release on Mayimba Music, Portraits in Space and Time, features Joseph LePore on bass and Rogerio Boccato on drums/percussion. It was recorded the way that the trio plays a set, using improvised segues to go from tune to tune, with no breaks. And it’s all about creating the vibe!

Originally Published