Release date: June 9, 2023
Label: Cellar Music Group
Short Stories is the eagerly-awaited debut album from celebrated bassist Vicente Archer. On this momentous release produced by renowned trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, Archer dives into stories and songs from his 25-year career of making music with luminaries like Robert Glasper, John Scofield, Nicholas Payton and Norah Jones. More than a musical memory box, however, Short Stories is a look at life and its little moments in sketches of sound. A family affair, Archer brings together long-time friends and collaborators Gerald Clayton on piano and Bill Stewart on drums to share in the story-telling.
In the typical career trajectory of most artists, a debut album comes far before being featured on over 150 albums as a sideman, far before garnering 5 Grammy nominations and 1 win, and certainly years prior to collaborating with artists in the echelon of Pat Metheny, Wynton Marsalis, Mary J. Blige and Terence Blanchard – but Archer has always had an aptitude for challenging convention. Short Stories allows listeners an intimate journey inside the musical mind of one of the most celebrated bassists in recent jazz history. On this significant release, Archer remains focused as ever on capturing and portraying the current moment with grace and musicality – in lieu of using his debut album to demonstrate his improvisational facility. As Archer notes, “There are plenty of recordings of me soloing, with Short Stories I wanted to find something that’s more myself.”
The bandleader indicates “This was my chance to share my voice as an artist. And rather than have some beginning-to-end narrative for the album, I wanted to capture a mood to share the way I look at things and have experienced them. Really, I wanted to take the known and familiar, and make it the start of something new.” Archer, Clayton and Stewart have worked together in various configurations countless times over the past several decades, and most recently, the trio toured intensively together for three years alongside jazz guitar titan John Scofield. Archer notes that it is alongside these two musicians that he feels the most comfortable – and that is evident when one listens to the near-telepathic interplay of these like-minded and like-spirited individuals.
Short Stories features material from each of the band members as well as interpretations of material from some of Archer’s friends and collaborators including Pat Metheny, Nicholas Payton, and the album’s producer, Jeremy Pelt.
“Mirai” starts the album out on a bright note, conjuring up themes of hope. “Mirai” fittingly is the Japanese word for “future”. The piece is a beautiful meditation on Archer’s relationship with his daughter. Archer notes “[Mirai] is the title of an anime film my then 2 year old daughter and I liked to watch together… The present moments we spend together, that will become her memories of childhood, of me. The way that all this beautiful present, will someday be the heartbeat of the past, keeping time through her unfolding future. Mirai is my way of capturing that feeling, that beautiful present, if just for a moment.
The composer notes, ““Bye Nashville” is a bittersweet farewell to a town that was our home for four years. A place l had always wanted to live, but had to leave when a tornado hit our home on March 3, 2020. A hard luck story straight out of a country song, “Bye Nashville” is just that, a sweet, swinging ‘so-long’ to make you laugh so you don’t cry. A way to accept what is, and move on to the next chapter.”
Drummer Bill Stewart contributed two compositions for the recording – the contemplative “Drop of Dusk”, and the muscular “Space Acres”, which became a part of the trio’s repertoire during their tenure with Scofield. Pianist Gerald Clayton brought the rhapsodic “Round Comes Around” to the table. Clayton delivers shades of Monk with a solo-piano intro that leads to a fervent and decidedly modern pianistic refrain, well-supported by the stellar rhythm section. A true ensemble piece, “Round Comes Around” displays some stunning melodic improvisation from the band-leader as well as Clayton and Stewart.
The album’s producer, Jeremy Pelt composed “13/14” – delivered here with nuance and intention. The piece demonstrates the trio’s rare ability to collectively improvise, intertwining melodic and rhythmic refrains that perfectly compliment each other, stemming from a collective knowledge of each player’s musical voice and deep listening. The album’s final track,“It Takes Two to Know One” is a composition by trumpet giant Nicholas Payton. Archer has toured with Payton for the past twenty years and Bill Stewart has toured with Payton for the last seven years – needless to say, both musicians are steeped in Payton’s musical vocabulary and voice. Tracked as a duo, Archer and Stewart deliver a masterclass in restraint, dynamics and groove!
LONDON JAZZ NEWS
“It's very tempting to leave this album on repeat... the intensity and focus with which Archer, Clayton and Stewart play make each one a musical story." Read the review here.
THE ARTS DESK
"It's never "all about the bass". What it is about us modern virtuosity equalling an ability to have a voice in many idioms. And Vicente Archer certainly has that. Try the singles as a gorgeous taster and an invitation. In a few weeks, the rest of the album, its depths and its astonishing freedoms will definitely be worth the wait." More here.
DARK BLUE NOTES
"...long-awaited short stories of Archer (as one of the best rhythm accompaniment in jazz today), tell us about [his] promotion from top notch musicianship to band leader position." Read more here.