Nic Vardanega, New Beginning Review
A Fresh Start: Nic Vardanega’s New Beginning – A Musical Odyssey of Innovation and Tradition
by Nolan DeBuke
New Beginning is the third album by Australian-born guitarist/composer Nic Vardanega, now a New York native for the past seven years. This title evokes inspiration that spawned during the conception period of the project. Vardanega explains, “The notion of a new beginning seemed an appropriate theme for me at this time in my life. This record encapsulates the idea of a new beginning for all of us emerging from the pandemic, resuming our non-virtual lives, and for me personally, in becoming a father in 2022.” This album is not just a new chapter in Vardanega’s life but a resonant reflection of universal themes of renewal, transition, and growth that can be heard in the musical interplay of the trio.
The ensemble featured in this album is a tight-knit trio, with Vardanega leading the group on guitar and composing all the pieces. Joining him is Ben Allison on bass and Allan Mednard on drums. Together, they form a cohesive and dynamic trio that conveys a rich tapestry of moods and expressions. Their interaction is characterized by empathy and responsiveness, which characterizes top-tier jazz playing. The sum is indeed greater than its parts, as Vardanega, Allison, and Mednard weave together a complex, intimate performance where every note and pause becomes a meaningful part of the conversation.
“New Beginning” opens the album with an upbeat straight-eight composition that celebrates Vardanega’s knack for melding clear melodic lines with chordal structures. There’s a discernible influence of Latin rhythms, but the music anchors itself in a rhythm flow that echoes the rich sounds of Australia and Folk Jazz of America. Vardanega’s guitar solo transitions into a more single-note style, rich in textures. He develops motifs with clarity, building his musical story with arching phrases that allow the listener to connect with the song’s form. It’s an engaging narrative, a true testament to musical storytelling.
From the joyous celebration of “New Beginning” to the complex rhythms of “Inner Episode,” the album explores a spectrum of emotions and musical styles. “Inner Episode” presents itself as an upbeat modern jazz composition, filled with interesting harmonic colors and a balanced interplay of band hits, chordal, and single-note sections. The trio’s approach to swing is buoyant and flowing, with Vardanega’s rhythmic execution sitting comfortably in the pocket provided by Allison and Mednard. Drawing inspiration from Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge,” Vardanega’s modern jazz vocabulary fits seamlessly within this harmonic progression. His guitar tone is warm, clean, and articulate, whether he chooses to pick or slur a note on his semi-hollow body guitar.
Overall, New Beginning adds to the jazz guitar trio canon of jazz with its distinctive influence of Australia’s folk music, combined with today’s American modern jazz sounds. Vardanega is a technically gifted guitarist who is highly musical in his improvisations. Combine that with his inclusion of many styles, and you have a unique and eclectic sound that has a strong foundation in folk jazz and modern jazz. In short, New Beginning fits into the jazz genre as a whole by combining technical virtuosity, musicality, improvisational skills, and a wide range of influences. Vardanega is pushing the boundaries of jazz music in new and exciting ways.
In conclusion, New Beginning is an embodiment of artistic evolution and personal transformation. Nic Vardanega’s seamless blend of Australian roots, jazz improvisation, technical mastery, and poignant storytelling delivers a refreshing musical experience that stands tall in the landscape of modern jazz. It’s an inspiring listening experience that reflects the boundless creativity and expressiveness that defines the ever-changing world of jazz, resonating not only with the ears but also with the soul.