Vlada is back, with a more personal brand of melodic jazz/gospel/pop and a decade of new life-experience to back it up
Glad Vlad Recordings
5 tracks / 22:12
About a decade ago a relatively unknown artist named Vlada (Vlada Tajsic) came on the scene with an album called All About You. At the time I certainly didn’t know much about this funk/soul/gospel artist emerging from Serbia, via Switzerland (yes) but I certainly did know ‘all about’ Take 6, Abraham Laboriel, Paul Jackson Jr,. Kirk Whalum, and Vinnie Colaiuta – musical heavy-hitters who somehow were players on this, Vlada’s debut project! Seeing some of my favorite names on this album convinced me that this Vlada guy either had the chops or God’s favor to obtain their services. Turns out he had both (tons of money would have been my third guess, but that would have been both wrong and not nearly as cool). Eventually making New York City his home base, the Swiss Soulman became a regular fixture at the iconic Bitter End, putting together a sizzling band, travelling and making friends, shooting videos and generally charming the socks off of every audience he played for. Then life’s river flowed, and Vlada’s path took him to other places, both physically and domestically.
Finally, Vlada has returned as a recording artist with his second official release, an EP called River Flow – five songs that reveal more maturity as a writer - a man whose life has given him a new breadth of experience to draw from. Now a husband and father, Vlada the songwriter brings a more melodic, nuanced sound – a pared-down production style that brings a much more personal touch. Where Vlada was preaching on his previous project (all good), on River Flow he’s having more of a personal conversation. Although the guest artists on his debut project were impressive, this EP doesn’t need the likes of Laboriel, Jackson Jr, and company – they’d just get in the way. These are conversations about life, and don’t need the benefit of celebrity. Sure, these songs celebrate the gospel – there’s no doubt about that – but now we’re in Vlada’s house instead of on the dance floor or in church.
“Somebody Needs Me” starts the album off, and it’s probably the song that most closely resembles the Vlada of 2010, with its funky bass line and catchy hook – a good transition. “Should Have Known” follows, showing a more streamlined, jazzy approach with some tasty scatting right off the top and a cool jazz combo groove. The song is infectious, and the jazzy break on the keyboard (Andreas Hausammann) is spot-on - it’s a bouncy, sophisticated song about love, sacrifice, and being thankful. By the time we get 30 seconds into “Better Than Gold” the new maturity, the more subtle melodic sense, the more nuanced vocals, all become apparent, and we clearly hear the ten years of artistic growth. The melody is warm and memorable and Vlada’s vocals are superb. “Keep Walking” continues in a jazzy mode but with a more upbeat groove and some soulful stretching vocally. The title track, “River Flow” closes the EP with a wise, bitter-sweet reminder that life goes on after heartbreak and that there’s a Healer available for our pain. It’s a reflective reminder that the river doesn’t always go where we want it to – but there’s still hope.
Vlada’s a very soulful vocalist, featuring just enough soul and gospel licks to keep things tasty and interesting without ever getting into pointless vocal histrionics. He also manages a very convincing ‘Take 6’ back-up vocal role, with excellent harmony arrangements and a smooth-as-silk vocal blend. The core band does a wonderful job of creating an intimate, jazzy groove with the aforementioned Hausammann on keyboards, Marc Ebermann on bass, Matthias ‘Maze’ Meusel on drums, Fabian Capaldi on Tenor Sax and Amik Guerra on trumpet.
Vlada 2.0 is a more soulful, introspective artist with a jazzy approach, a well-developed melodic sense, a penchant for hooks, and that special something that makes you feel like you’re sharing time with a friend. Pour yourself a hot cup, sit back and enjoy.
- Bert Saraco
To see concert photography by Bert Saraco, visit: www.facebook.com/express.image