Andy Vaz: Straight Vacationing

Andy Vaz's Straight Vacationing, his first album-length collection of studio tracks since the 2006 release of Repetitive Moments Last Forever... on Persistencebit Records and his first full-length to appear on his own Yore imprint, registers as less a straight-up collection of dancefloor burners and more a variety pack that mixes club tracks and dance-based songs. Listeners hungry for 4/4 throwdowns will hear their share of those, but they'll also get a whole lot more on this dynamic and well-rounded set of eight tracks (nine counting the bonus) from the Yore pilot. If one were curious to know just how much Vaz's music has changed over the past decade, listening to Straight Vacationing alongside one of his earlier Soundvariation releases would make that abundantly clear, with the exuberant deep house vibe of the recent material worlds removed from the stark minimalism of the earlier.

Straight Vacationing kicks off in fine form when an acid-funk bass line percolates aggressively in “Detroit In Me” alongside a female vocal motif (“Got a little bit o' Detroit in me”) and a wealth of radiant synths and a late-inning jazz piano episode; if the track title obviously leaves little doubt as to the genre on offer, Vaz nevertheless polishes the track's Detroit surfaces to a mirror-like sheen, and the track proves to be a radiantly soulful start to what will be a trip of multiple colours and satisfactions. After a laid-back intro, the title cut digs into its bass-heavy rolling groove determinedly, with Vaz sprinkling its slow-funk pulse with electric piano and organ accents, while, on the clubbier tip there's “Fukuoka Liquid,” a bubbly, acid-techno shape-shifter featuring a hammering groove overlaid with synth smears.

An occasional guest adds a distinctive touch to the material too, such as when Timir Roy's tabla playing takes the house-driven fury of “The Other Place” to a, well, whole other place. And a little bit like what Maceo Parker might sound like soloing over a funky, Detroit-styled groove, Andreas Pasternack spreads his tenor sax wail all over the creamy base Vaz fashions for him in “Stubnitz” and in so doing bolsters the hard-grooving cut's bounce. The album's poppiest moment arrives in “Just Another Round,” whose infectious hooks, vocal and otherwise, Vaz powers with a thunderous bass attack. The supremely funky bass playing is rooted in the grand Larry Graham-and-Bootsy Collins tradition, and the music's cold sweat might remind listeners of a certain age of the J.B.'s, James Brown's ‘70s band.

A few questionable moments do arise. Though “Dope Jam (Bullyshit Mix)” slams with bass-thundering force, the sample lifted from A Taste of Honey's “Boogie Oogie Oogie” is a little too conspicuous for my liking, and on the bonus track “Soul Feelin'” it would have been nice had Vaz given Eva better lyrics to sing; instrumentally the track is fine and so is her singing, but lines such as “It's a feelin' you got me feelin' and I'm lovin' it like a groove deep in my soul…” aren't terribly, shall we say, thought-provoking. Still, such flaws are minor and hardly cast a serious shadow on a superbly crafted album that otherwise hits the mark solidly.

Included as free digital downloads, the remixes are hardly second-rate add-ons—but that won't surprise listeners familiar with the output of Yore associates Patrice Scott, Rick Wade, Alton Miller, Memory Foundation, Ibex (Tony Ollivierra), Kez YM, and Orlando B. In their “Detroit In Me” makeovers, Miller exploits the tune's acid potential, while Orlando B focuses on the cut's house side in a rolling, effervescent take that's so fleet of foot it feels airborne; in contrast to the other two, Scott strips the vocal away altogether, turning the original into a trippy, beat-centered shape-shifter in the process. In addition, Wade adds his inimitable touch to “Soul Feelin'” by animating it with a crisp house swing, Kez YM takes the tune out into the streets where crowd noise and congas add to the free-spirited party vibe, and Memory Foundation invests “Stubnitz” with a jacking, hyperactive intensity that splits the spotlight between sax playing and mechano rhythms. It wouldn't be stretching things too much to say that the remixes could be looked upon as an indispensible component of Straight Vacationing, even if they're supplemental to the album proper.

October 2011