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Wish You Were Here

by Javier Vercher

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about

by Doug Simpson:

Tenor saxophonist Javier Vercher unites two sides of jazz. On the one side, he’s fond of melodic music with straightforward motion: pleasant, no overt surprises, splendidly swinging. On the other hand, the Brooklyn-via-Spain Vercher likes unpredictability and going into areas where instantaneous, sometimes discordant, improvisation is important. Both aspects of Vercher’s musical personality are layered into the tenor saxophonist’s fourth effort as leader, the hour-long Wish You Were Here (recorded in 2008; released overseas in 2010; issued stateside this year). There are ballads; there is jazz poetry; there is hummable, post-bop artistry. Anyone interested in a preview should watch an online promo video which explains the record’s background and showcases in-studio performances. Vercher’s creativity is abetted by a sympathetic group consisting of Benin-born acoustic guitarist Lionel Loueke (who can sound like Earl Klugh or a wilder Pat Metheny); pianist Sam Yahel (featured on five tracks: he is also known as a Hammond organist); double bassist Larry Grenadier (he was previously in pianist Brad Mehldau’s trio, and has done sessions with Larry Vuckovich, Joshua Redman, Enrico Rava, and others); and drummer Francisco Mela (his résumé includes saxophonist Joe Lovano and Chris Crocco). Vercher also utilizes guests on a few other cuts to add spice to the proceedings.

Wish You Were Here (which can be streamed in full online) begins with Loueke’s sole contribution, the warm and tender “Vivi” (all other compositions were penned by Vercher). This sincere outing has a light, Latin touch via Loueke’s guitar (on this piece, Loueke evokes the smoothness of Ricardo Silveira), while Vercher advances into slightly sharper topography, achieving an earthy and soaring tone. Mela bounces his sticks in an assertive way and is assisted by percussionist Arturo Stable. When Yahel takes the spotlight, there’s a suggestion of Mehldau. There are also wordless vocals which bubble underneath, imparting a crumb of unconventionality. The title track (which has no apparent connection to the Pink Floyd album with the same name) has a similar approach, with cozy acoustic guitar; lots of cymbals from Mela; balmy bass lines; and Vercher’s ear-catching sax lines (he seems like a cross between early Stan Getz and Dexter Gordon). More wordless vocals sneak in, when Loueke solos. The interplay of acoustic guitar and tenor sax is a highlight of the nearly-eight-minute “Ears of a Distant Traveler,” although the harmonic vocalizations get uncomfortably close to Keith Jarrett territory. Vercher kicks things up several notches on the upbeat “Ahí Donde Vive Joe,” a bop-inclined burner where Vercher and Yahel trade lines; Yahel supplies some seriously good vamping; and the rhythm section keeps everything clicking along with agility. Vercher and his band end the regular program with the quietly stunning and aptly-named “Style & Grace.” Loueke commences with a beautiful acoustic guitar intro; then bass, sax, and drums enter to furnish more stirring music. Yahel is not present and Vercher and Loueke shine throughout: Vercher is particularly worth mentioning when he occasionally treads away from the main theme to craft somewhat rougher sounds.

There are two bonus cuts and this is where Vercher stretches beyond expectations. These two numbers, in fact, may throw some off-track. But that’s probably Vercher’s intent. First is the ghostly, percussion-loaded “Turning Towards Kindness No. VIII,” where guest vocalist Brian Schreck reads a poem by 14th-century Persian author Jelaluddin Rumi, while Vercher’s arrangement concentrates on liquid-like percussion, some breathy sax and production/mix trickery to provide a contemporary patina. Vercher shows his freer jazz predisposition on “Rio Blanco No. IX”. The nine-minute tune launches in a relaxed manner, with easeful sax and nicely-plucked guitar, but bit by bit tension builds, just a hint, but little by little the sax and piano indicate oncoming conflict. Seven minutes into the piece, that dissonance is headfirst, although even so, there is stabilization via bass and drums. On Wish You Were Here, Vercher and his allies establish a successful balance between satiating jazz which should appeal to mainstream listeners, with moments of explorative space which never goes out of control.
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All Music written by Javier Vercher,
except "Vivi" by Lionel Loueke.

JAVIER VERCHER - Saxophone
LIONEL LOUEKE - Guitar
SAM YAHEL - Piano
LARRY GRENADIER - Bass
FRANCISCO MELA - Drums

Special Guest on "Vivi" and "Blue Heron"

Arturo Stable - Percussion
Jorge Perez - Cajon


Recorded Sep. 12, 2008.
Peter Karl´s Recording Studio - Brooklyn, NYC.
Recording Engineer: MIKE PEREZ CISNEROS
Mastering: MIKE PEREZ CISNEROS
Co-Produced: JAVIER VERCHER and MIGUEL MENGUAL
Executive Producer: MIGUEL MENGUAL

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JAVIER VERCHER (1978) BIOGRAPHY by MICHAEL HILL

Tenor saxophonist Javier Vercher, is a pure-hearted jazz man, whose approach embraces both the avant-garde and the old school. The Williamsburg, Brooklyn émigré relishes free playing for its unpredictability and intuitiveness, the feeling of discovery, and the instant rapport with his fellow players. But his gradually unfolding soundscapes also have an emotional gravity to them and, at times, a palpable sense of the spiritual. Each is a wordless narrative; the starting point is often real life.

One of his songs,“Wish You Were Here,” for example, was inspired by his recent travels through South America backing up Pop Star Alejandro Sanz. It also serves as the opening track for Vercher’s self-produced new album, I Wish You Were Here. Vercher leads an impressive line-up of bold-faced names, indicative of how highly he has come to be regarded in New York City’s jazz community. Joining him are bassist Larry Grenadier, guitarist Lionel Loueke, pianist Sam Yahel and drummer Francisco Mela, along with other guest players. Vercher penned all the tracks except “Vivi,” composed by Loueke.

Vercher has already cultivated a serious buzz overseas, especially in Europe and South America, via extensive touring and festival dates with various jazz combos. The Village Voice has described Vercher as “a feisty player, willing to get bruised up a bit for his art.” He’s released two albums on the Fresh Sounds label. Introducing Javier Vercher, is a trio date with special contributions from pianist Robert Glasper and drummer Bob Moses. His second, The Wheel of Time, is a collaboration with drummer Ferenc Nementh, featuring such guest stars as guitarist Loueke and legendary sixties songwriter Chip Taylor. Reviewing the last album mentioned, All About Jazz declared, “The setting is simple: saxophone, drums/percussion, and occasional guitar; but the results are profound and from the start it's clear that this is something different.”

Vercher was born in Madrid but raised in Valencia. His father, a well accomplished musician and arranger, may have instilled his son with a sense of wanderlust. More specifically, though, he gave the younger Vercher an appreciation of music by enrolling Javier in a school of music, to study the classics and learn the clarinet, when Javier was just seven. Perhaps more importantly than any educational opportunities he proffered, says Vercher, his dad “had a nice collection of Weather Report, John Coltrane and Keith Jarrett on vinyl at home.”


By the time he was 18, Vercher had graduated with a degree in classical clarinet studies from the Joaquin Rodrigo Conservatory of Valencia and began to explore “a freer style of music.” He started playing tenor sax and attended jazz seminars in Spain with such visiting teachers as Kurt Rosenwinkel, Perico Sambeat, Chris Cheek and Jorge Pardo. A year later, he was on his way, scholarship in hand, to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass. Towards the end of his time in Boston, he was invited to play with drummer Bob Moses, New England Conservatory instructor and bonafide jazz legend; that sparked an ongoing relationship with Moses as student, fellow player and friend. Declares Vercher, “It was one of the most powerful musical experiences I had ever had. Mr. Moses helped me understand music in a more organic and spiritual way, and I hope to keep growing in that direction.” In 2007, Vercher was awarded the prestigious Best Breakthrough Award at the Spanish Tete Montoliu Biennel, an event dedicated to the Catalunyan jazz pianist and composer Tete Montoliu. Its mission is to perpetuate Montoliu’s legacy through the encouragement of the talents of today's young jazz musicians. Other awarded artists that edition were Chick Corea and Federico Lechner.

Vercher has kept up his travels - Hitting the road again with Sanz or organizing jazz dates in Italy and Spain - but his goal is to play for a wider audience. Consider Wish You Were Here his comecoming.

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JAVIER VERCHER (1978) Lines Notes por MICHAEL HILL

El saxofonista tenor Javier Vercher es un jazzista de corazón puro, cuya propuesta musical abarca tanto el avant-garde como la vieja escuela. Asentado en Williamsburg, Brooklyn, se deleita en la interpretación libre por su impredecibilidad e intuición, la sensación de descubrimiento y el entendimiento inmediato con sus compañeros. Los entornos acústicos que él va desarrollando gradualmente también presentan una relevancia emocional para ellos y, en ocasiones, un sentido palpable de lo espiritual. Cada composición es una narración sin palabras; el punto de partida suele ser la vida real.

Gran parte del álbum “Wish You Were Here” se inspiró en los viajes de Vercher por Sudamérica acompañando a la estrella española del pop Alejandro Sanz. También sirve como pista introductoria del nuevo álbum producido por Vercher: I Wish You Were Here. Vercher encabeza un impresionante grupo de músicos e improvisadores importantes, lo que indica la gran estima que se ha ganado en la comunidad del jazz de la Ciudad de Nueva York. El contrabajista Larry Grenadier, el guitarrista Lionel Loueke, el pianista Sam Yahel y el baterista Francisco Mela, junto con los músicos invitados Arturo Stable y Jorge Perez. Vercher escribió todas las canciones, a excepción de “Vivi”, que fue compuesta por Loueke.

Javier ha ganado buena reputación en el exterior, especialmente en Europa y Sudamérica, a través de extensos viajes y colaboraciones en diversas bandasde jazz para festivales y el circuito de clubs Europeo. El Village Voice ha descrito a Vercher como “un músico inquieto, dispuesto a recibir moretones Por su arte”. Vercher ha lanzado dos álbumes bajo el sello Fresh Sound. Su primer disco Introducing Javier Vercher Trio con colaboraciones especiales del pianista Robert Glasper y el baterista Bob Moses. Su segundo trabajo, Wheel of Time, ha contado con la colaboración del baterista Ferenc Nemeth y la participación del guitarrista Loueke y Chip Taylor, el declaró: “El ambiente es simple: saxofón, batería/percusión y una guitarra ocasional; pero los resultados son profundos y desde el comienzo queda claro que esto es algo diferente”.



Vercher nació en Madrid, pero creció en Valencia. Su padre, músico clásico y compositor, probablemente le haya infundido la pasión por la música y los viajes. Quizás más específicamente, inscribió al joven Vercher en una escuela de música cuando tenía solo 7 años para que estudiara a los clásicos y aprendiera a tocar el clarinete y el piano. Según Vercher; Tal vez más importante que las oportunidades educativas brindadas por la escuela haya sido el hecho de que su padre “tuviera la colección completa de Weather Report y muchos vinilos de John Coltrane y Keith Jarrett en casa”.

Para cuando tenía 18 años, Vercher se había graduado del Conservatorio Joaquín Rodrigo de Valencia con el título de profesor en clarinete clásico y había comenzado a explorar “un estilo musical más libre”. Empezó a tocar el saxo tenor y a asistir a seminarios de jazz en España en los que enseñaban maestros como Kurt Rosenwinkel, Perico Sambeat, Chris Cheek y Jorge Pardo. Un año después, Vercher obtuvo una beca para estudiar en el Berklee College of Music de Boston, Massachusetts. Cuando estaba por terminar sus estudios en Boston, Javier fue invitado a tocar con el baterista Bob Moses, una auténtica leyenda del jazz; ese fue el comienzo de una relación continua con Moses como su estudiante y amigo. Vercher declara: El señor Moses me ayudó a comprender la música de una forma más orgánica y espiritual, y espero seguir creciendo en esa dirección”. En el año 2007, Vercher obtuvo el prestigioso Premio Revelación en la Bienal Tete Montoliu de España, SGAE, un premio en homenaje al compositor y pianista de jazz catalán Tete Montoliu cuya misión es continuar con el legado de Montoliu mediante la promoción de músicos del jazz actual. Otros musicos homeageados en esta edicion fueron Chick Corea y Federico Lechner.

Vercher continúa con sus viajes pero su objetivo es tocar música para una audiencia más amplia. Considere que “Wish You Were Here” es su regreso a casa.

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released March 9, 2015

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Javier Vercher Valencia, Spain

JAVIER VERCHER (1978) BIOGRAPHY by MICHAEL HILL

Tenor saxophonist Javier Vercher, is a pure-hearted jazz man, whose approach embraces both the avant-garde and the old school. His gradually unfolding soundscapes also have an emotional gravity to them and, at times, a palpable sense of the spiritual. Each is a wordless narrative; the starting point is often real life. ... more

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