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Gaze at Your Omphalos by Jay Vilnai's Vampire Suit

Vampire Suit seemed like a good band to listen to on a rainy day two weeks shy of Halloween. Though there's nothing particularly scary about their sound, the name nonetheless fits; if Bram Stoker's imaginary Transylvania had a jazz scene, the music might sound something like this. Meanwhile, their songs, full of droning electric violins and guitars playing in minor scales alongside crashing cymbals harmonize nicely with the splashing rain and gray skies.

Vampire Suit synthesizes a lot of different things into its music. "The Visit of the Queen of Sheba" sounds like Balkan music meets downtown jazz with dashes of Robert Lucas and Marc Ribot, "Moonbow" is one of several tracks to feature strong Klezmer influences and is highlighted by the clarinet of Gary Pickard, while "Ophelia" shows Brazilian and Portuguese influences. "Fana" features the rhythms and sonorities of North Africa and the Middle East. "Lullaby" is a nice if overlong ballad with roots more firmly planted in the west.

Violinist Skye Steele and guitarist Vilnai are excellent at setting the mood, and Vilnai is a talented tunesmith. Mike Savino's bass quietly but firmly anchors the date, while percussionist Kevin Garcia is inventive but occasionally overplays as on "Lullaby." Steele and Pickard are the most interesting soloists, playing with soul while Vilnai is a bit textbook at times. He has a good tone and sense of phrasing, but too often falls into the trap of connecting the dots of the harmonic minor scale or a church mode rather than digging deep for something to say with them. On a straight ahead jazz record this would be a fatal flaw, but it works out OK on a session like this where mood is king.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Jay Vilnai's Vampire Suit
  • CD Title: Gaze at Your Omphalos
  • Genre: World Music
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Vilnais Music
  • Rating: Three Stars
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