Release Date: May 13, 2022
Poetic is the powerful third album from Jonathan Barber and Vision Ahead. With Poetic, Barber and the group present a dynamic, refined sound; the album showcases not only the stellar musicianship of each of the group’s five members, but the striking cohesiveness of a band of brothers who have performed by each other’s side for over a decade. Revealing another layer of musical depth and conceptual maturity to the ensemble, Jonathan Barber’s latest statement undoubtedly solidifies this ensemble’s stature as a premier group of its generation. Staying true to its original lineup, the cast features acclaimed drummer Jonathan Barber at the helm alongside pianist Taber Gable and bassist Matt Dwonszyk to round-out the group’s first-call rhythm section, with celebrated alto saxophonist Godwin Louis and visionary guitarist Andrew Renfroe making up the group’s front line.
As a response to facing the many trials of the day, Barber exclaims “Creating this album, we (Vision Ahead) reminded ourselves that it is better to push through collectively. In some cases the best way to respond is to gather in one room and record the moment.” These sessions bore fruitful recordings of original compositions by Barber, Renfroe, Louis and Gable. “Although Poetic is an instrumental album, the music delivers melodies that are lyrical.” The album’s tracks show a masterful command of instrumentation, making excellent use of space and dynamics. Incorporating new sonic textures to Barber’s trademark sound, the group makes use of a Fender Rhodes instead of a grand piano, weaving lush, dark colors into the sonic tapestry which seem to coalesce and sometimes meld, though never competing, with Renfroe’s sustained harmony and melodic refrains.
The album’s opening track “Poetic”, begins with the drums and piano laying the harmonic and rhythmic framework for the piece. Barber’s rhythmic feel around the placement of Gable chords is playful and sets the tone of the song. The melody is introduced with many layers as Louis and Renfroe enter following Dwonszyk’s bass-line. Renfroe unleashes sheets of sound over the song’s harmony, channeling Coltrane’s harmonic ethos with a melodic approach and tone that is entirely his own. Louis maintains the intensity and demonstrates his soulful facility on his instrument with a fiery solo.
Barber notes the exceptional maturity of the band’s playing on “Gathering” and how the tune is a great example of Vision Ahead’s development. Composed by Guitarist Andrew Renfroe, this song is a true ensemble piece, featuring everyone in the group. Gable sets the tone with ideas that are responsive to the mood of the song. The Fender Rhodes is glistening with lush chords and each note illuminates like stars in the sky. After one chorus, Gable passes the baton to Louis who brightens the feel of the piece with the delivery of a vocabulary-laden solo. “Each solo carries out the emotion of the songs yet presents it in their own way. “Dwonszyk’s intention with note choice and placement is handled with such prestige” Barber indicates. Down to Barber’s use of a deep low-end snare, every element here helps accomplish a reflective piece that never loses sight of its pulse.
The Godwin Louis composition “Give Us This Day” features melody and countermelody played by Louis and Renfroe respectively. This deeply soulful piece begins with a mellow ¾ feel and then escalates in intensity to a raucous 4/4 shuffle. The groove-centric “Denim”, composed by Jonathan Barber, takes the listener on a hero’s journey through seamlessly shifting feelings that draw from the realms of neo-soul, R&B and modern jazz. Renfroe takes no prisoners with a scorching solo, well-supported by Barber and the rest of the rhythm section. The album concludes with Taber Gable’s “South”. “South” begins with Gable’s statement of the harmony, upon which Louis and Renfroe state the melody. Barber’s rhythmic exploration on this piece, and on the album as a whole, can not be overstated. “You’re not going to find a traditional drum solo from me on this album. I didn’t want to be featured in an isolated moment. Part of my artistry is creating with other musicians. To me every song on Poetic feels like one big drum solo,” notes Barber. Gable and Renfroe each solo and then repeat the melodic motif of the head as Barber’s rhythmic variation intensifies and the sonic palate of the piece expands and then concludes on a high.
As Barber notes “It’s safe to say that playing collectively for over 10 years shows on this album. Jonathan Barber & Vision Ahead is more than a band, it’s a sound!
Release Date: May 15, 2020
Following the highly-acclaimed release of his debut, Vision Ahead drummer, composer and bandleader Jonathan Barber is proud to announce the release of his new album, Legacy Holder. Featuring Barber on drums, alongside pianist Taber Gable, guitarist Andrew Renfroe, alto saxophonist Godwin Louis, bassist Matt Dwonszyk and with a guest appearance from vocalist Mar Vilaseca (“The Call”), Legacy Holder solidifies the musical, cultural and spiritual direction that this ensemble, “Vision Ahead” continues to strive towards. Legacy Holder showcases the band’s maturity and sincerity. With this release, Jonathan Barber & Vision Ahead presents yet another example of a truly cohesive sound - its origin tracing back to one focused, thought-provoking concept. In this instance, that concept is legacy. The release of Legacy Holder will be celebrated at the Jazz Standard on Wednesday, May 20th at 7:30 and 9:30.
Every person has a foundation. From that foundation comes the opportunity to create a narrative. Having the ability to then share this narrative not only carries on a legacy, it breaks down a wall of limitations and stigmas. For Barber, the true significance of a legacy holder lies in the responsibility to lead through action, and by example. Having now developed a decade-long professional career in music, the 30 year old, Hartford, CT-native realises not only his ability, but his duty to inspire and influence others, just as the generations that have gone before continue to push his artistry and perspective forward. “Understanding that you are able to help others through your experiences, you have the ability to continue a lineage that is fruitful, and removes the path that leads to exclusion and segregation,” the bandleader explains. “We all are Legacy Holders. We must stand strong for the cause and assist in making change. The continuation of unity or division relies on us.”
An eight-track collection of fresh, innovative, original material, Legacy Holder demonstrates a continuous flow from start to finish, evocative of one lengthy suite. The title track leads the listener into the mindset wherein Barber sets aside a moment of reflection. Although “Legacy Holder” may be labeled as a ballad, it reaches points of both intensity and subtlety. Throughout, each musician significantly contributes to the sensitivity of the track. Barber introduces the composition with a light march using brushes, creating a mellow pulse beneath the simple, singable, relaxing melody. Gradually building upon the foundation of Renfroe’s solo, the band reaches a pinnacle point, establishing a groove wherein Louis and Gable trade choruses. A beautiful conversation develops between alto saxophone and piano, and gives way to the opportunity for each band member to reflect and bounce ideas off each other. Overall, “Legacy Holder” exemplifies maturity and promise.
Release Date: May 11, 2018
Hartford, Connecticut-native Jonathan Barber is proud to announce his arrival with the release of his highly-anticipated debut album Vision Ahead. Featuring pianist Taber Gable, guitarist Andrew Renfroe, saxophonist Godwin Louis, bassist Matt Dwonszyk, and vocalists Denise Renee and Sasha Foster (collectively and eponymously known as the album title), Vision Ahead is Barber’s product of six years spent cultivating a distinct and immaculately tailored sound with like minded musicians who, together, now present themselves as an undeniable, sonically-solid unit. Vision Ahead serves as a showcase of the fresh prospects that can be envisioned and the greatness that can be achieved when one is forced to face unanticipated, desolating life-challenges.
Upon hearing the devastating and unexpected news of his one and only brother’s death in November 2016, Barber struggled to comprehend life, and the purpose of his own, individual foreplanned and foreseen envisage slipped out of his understanding. “I became confused with the direction that life was taking me and numb to the new norm that instantly presented itself to me; for it was that stand still moment the words “Vision Ahead” became the theme of my next chapter in life.”
Sonically, Vision Ahead not only paints a picture of fresh perspective but one of perseverance. Aside achieving goals through adversity, it is a creation of polished craft and art that strives to breakthrough in a music industry that lacks the attention of an intellectual artist. “My music not only helped me through my grieving process, but sparked a fresh musical style in hopes of carrying on the spirit of this American art form; jazz.”
Eight out of the twelve tracks on Vision Ahead were personally composed by the young musician, named best “Up & Coming” drummer in the 2018 Modern Drummer Readers Poll. “Collectively we capture the deep emotion and the intention that encompasses the compositions of these songs.”
This tightly-knit ensemble has successfully created an album of hope and positivity. Whether itʼs graduating from The Jackie Mclean Institute of Jazz or being natives in the State of Connecticut, the seeds that were planted in one of the smallest states in the U.S. has already made an erroneous impact in the music industry; a vision that is still growing.
THE BIG TAKEOVER
"..Vision Ahead makes Poetic as refreshing as a glass of ice water after a long drive." Read the review here.
BEST OF JAZZ
"To coin a phrase, we could say that Poetic is a profoundly “modern New York jazz” release, yet it is also full of jazz lyricisms and vibes from the Seventies." Read the review here.
"He elevates the material with terrific playing that's tight, poised, and locked-in.." Read the review here.
STUART NICHOLSON, MIKE HOBART
"..a man with a plan - or perhaps that should be a man with a vision." Read the August 2022 issue of Jazzwise Magazine, which includes a feature on Jonathan Barber and review of his record, Poetic.
THE WHOLE NOTE
"From beginning to end, this album pushes the boundaries of the genre in the best ways possible.." Read the complete review in the Summer 2022 issue of The Whole Note, here.
"His method of shaping up the music with fragmented beats, responsive polyrhythms and a surgical precision behind the kit places him solidly in the ranks of other creative under-40 drummers on the scene today.." Read the feature in the September 2022 issue of Downbeat Magazine here.
TAKE EFFECT REVIEWS
"Barber and Vision Ahead have been playing together for over a decade, and that chemistry is very apparent across these exploratory, dynamic and refined compositions that make this 3rd album a top notch jazz outing." Read the review here.
for Legacy Holder
THE ABSOLUTE SOUND
"A mature effort by a young musician, Legacy Holder makes one look forward to what’s next." Read more here.
"Barber da mucho espacio a los músicos que le acompañan. Todos colaboran en el equilibrio que caracteriza a sus composiciones, por lo general elegantes, algo minimalistas, pero no exentas de ritmo e intensidad cuando así se requiere." Lea esta reseña aquí.
KEVIN LA GENDRE
"In any case this is good fare from a musician whose future looks bright."
"Barber has worked with some heavy hitters in his short career to date including Pat Metheny, Nicholas Payton, Buster Williams and Jeremy Pelt." Read the full review here.
"There’s an abundance of heightened energy and new ideas here, executed with pristine precision by the bandleader and his future-facing ensemble." Read this review here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"An album of subtlety and fire - more cerebral than stoner, more an inner world journey than an outward performance display- Legacy Holder retains its hypnotic spell for repeated plays." Review here.
"See if you can figure out what kind of hyper-complex rhythm he’s put together…oh, wait, it’s actually a 4/4 groove, just chopped up into such tiny glittering bits it’s enough to make your head spin."Read the full review here.
"Barber is not reinventing the wheel but he is certainly breathing new life in the fierier more energy laden branch of contemporary bop and injecting it with a vitality and anthemic spirit that marks him out as the big drummer discovery so far in 2020".Read the full review here.
"Legacy Holder is a masterful sophomore release from Jonathan Barber that can be appreciated on many levels, from the serenity of the minimalism to the incredibly intricate ensemble performance and, of course, the intensity and creativity of the drummer." Read the full review here.
"With Barber being but thirty years old, it might seem premature for him to be giving thought to legacy. But his professional musical career is now a decade-long, and the list of credits Barber's amassed in that time is impressive. That's given him more than enough opportunity to reflect on where his music's come from and where he envisions it going, and thus it's only natural for him to be considering the part he's playing in it and how to help foster its growth. To that end, Barber's Vision Ahead and, by extension, Legacy Holder embody the directions musically and culturally to which he's aspiring." Check the full playlist here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
MUSICAL MEMOIRS'S BLOG
"Barber’s drums are busy and inspired in the background, not necessarily grounded in swing or straight-ahead, but rather like a locomotive engine, pushing the production forward." Check the full playlist here.
Sparkling performances – detailed and at times even challenging; and yet it all goes down easy. Read the full review here.
for Vision Ahead
DEE DEE MCNEIL
"Jonathan Barber is the powerhouse behind this group, always at the forefront of their energy and persuasive with his drum licks and percussive powers." Read the full review here.
"When listening to Jonathan Barber, there’s an earful of innovative and thoughtful rhythmic execution that causes pause." Read the full feature here.
"Upon hearing the arrangement of the tune, Barber’s sublime drumming ability, and how he is able to lead his band into taking a pre-existing song and make it into their own while respecting the original composer’s intent, it’s easy to see why readers of Modern Drummer voted Barber as the best up-and-coming." Read the full track premiere here.
"Barber's Concept with "Vision Ahead" is shapely and sure, fortified with youthful energy, yet tempered by mature skills. His compositions are solid, his performance grounded, full of dance feel, and one with a future." Read the full review here.
"...a debut album that puts him forward as a clear-eyed and confident bandleader besides." Read the full feature here.
"His sound his novel and refreshing. His ideas are contemporary and cohesive. It is rooted in tradition and technique yet striving to push barriers and break down walls. If all else, it looks like Barber has a bright future ahead." Read the full feature and stream "Crown" here.
"Drummer/Composer/Producer/Vocalist Jonathan Barber has self-released and splash-landed Vision Ahead, the kind of genre-splicing debut that stands out immaculately on its own." Read the full review here.
"We expect debut albums to show promise, but we don’t necessarily expect them to be fully realized and mature statements. A rare example of the latter, Jonathan Barber’s "Vision Ahead" presents a twelve-track collection of modern jazz by the Hartford, Connecticut native that dazzles on multiple levels: performance, writing, arranging, and sequencing." Read the full review here.
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"Barber turns in a very mature debut with Vision Ahead and joins the clan of drummer-led projects with advanced composition and tasteful application of chops." Read the full review here.
RAUL DA GAMA
JAZZ DA GAMA
"Listened to end-to end, this is more than the music of a generous heart and a fertile mind; it is the work of a young musical alchemist." Read the full review here.
MODERN DRUMMER [JULY 2018]
"Vision Ahead is not your typical young-gun-goes-for-the-jugular release. Thoughtful and expansive, informed by shimmering drumming and memorable compositions, it’s thoroughly modern in its jazz conception and attitude..." Read the full interview here.
D. OSCAR GROOMES
O'S PLACE JAZZ MAGAZINE
"Jonathan Barber is a drummer, vocalist, composer and bandleader who put together an inspiring collection of music on Vision Ahead, a strong collection of jazz-fusion including vocals that stress perseverance."
MODERN DRUMMER [SEPTEMBER 2018]
"Barber’s burning stick flurries and glittering full-set deliveries evoke the feeling of being in the driver’s seat of a Formula One racer." Read the full review here.