Bryan and the Aardvarks, led by the bassist Bryan Copeland, specializes in an unabashedly pretty strain of postbop, chamberlike and euphonious. At the Culture Project theater on Bleecker Street, early in the going at Winter Jazzfest on Friday night, they sounded ready for a bigger stage, or at least an indie film soundtrack.
The band has three harmonic instruments, each played by an articulate ace: the vibraphonist Chris Dingman, the pianist Fabian Almazan and the guitarist Jesse Lewis. On “The Ocean,” a tune with a rock backbone but soft features, all three of these musicians improvised with striking fluency; on “Sol del Mar,” a composition by Mr. Almazan, the vibraphone solo was the one to remember.
This is a band with dynamic flux in its DNA, and brisk technique in its bloodstream. But its overriding purpose is consonance. “Pastoral shred,” my fellow critic Hank Shteamer put it on Twitter, and that sounds about right. There’s an eager audience for this.
A side note: the Culture Project theater, a new space for Winter Jazzfest, is a black box theater with good sight lines and better sound, and probably the most comfortable I’ll encounter tonight. Because it’s a bit of a trek from the Sullivan-Thompson Street hub, it’s less crowded; as I type this, I count a few dozen empty seats. But if you’re reading this and part of the Winter Jazzfest throng, don’t let the distance dissuade you. There probably won’t be a line here, and there’s Sixpoint beer on draft.
This band favors strong melody and gentle communion.
"Bassist/Composer Bryan Copeland, leads the Aardvarks. A charming jazz quartet, infused with a wistful pop sensibility. At the heart of the group, is a stirring blend of Fabian Almazan's piano, and Chris Dingman's vibraphone."
"Bryan and the Aardvarks’ debut album Heroes of Make Believe is a suite of nocturnes. Their music has been characterized as noir, and that definitely is a part of the picture. Bassist/composer Bryan Copeland’s glimmering, gently surreal modal themes are fleshed out with a lush, hypnotic gleam by vibraphonist Chris Dingman, multi-keyboardist Fabian Almazanand subtle drummer Joe Nero."
“Bryan Copeland grew up in the Texas Hill Country. That’s where he gained his appreciation for the folk and country music that he blends so well with his jazz and classical training. The melody-centric composition, “These Little Hours,” prominently features Chris Dingman’s vibraphone, which shimmers across deeply cinematic soundscapes.”
"Lush, cinematic, contemporary jazz that is difficult to categorize, but easy to swallow. This is fine music, beautifully played, with the complexity to hold the listener."
At the Culture Project Theater, Bryan and the Aardvarks kicked off the venue’s performances with some of the prettiest and most thoughtful music existing in the lineup. Led by bassist Bryan Copeland, the Aardvarks absorbed and exposited cinematic soundscapes, baroque-pop chord changes, and a post-bop sense of melodic invention. The diverse range of sonic possibilities the band employed, and the musicians that were on board mostly aided their unique sound: Chris Dingman’s vibraphones burst with color amidst his improvised motifs, guitarist Jesse Lewis burned and swelled with the music, and Fabian Almazan’s piano and organ added a sense of classical finesse throughout.
Bryan and the Aardvarks - Like Claudia Quintet crossed with Pat Metheny Group. Pastoral shred - I love it. #WJF2013
"These are songs that are melodically diffuse, and their reflection off thick sheets of harmonies and susurrous rhythms shines as brilliantly as the prettiest stars in the sky." - Dave Sumner, Bird Is The Worm