Recommended: Bryan & the Aardvarks – “Heroes of Make Believe”


Bryan and the Aardvarks - "Heroes of Make Believe"Bryan Copeland‘s opus, four years in the making, documents his time in New York, expressed as a series of lullabies, preludes to dreams… those that symbolize our ideals and goals, but also the kind that manifest in a state of peaceful sleep.  Heroes of Make Believe, performed by his quartet Bryan & the Aardvarks, finds a middle ground between modern jazz and a strain of indie-pop that builds big worlds in the tiny ambient secluded corners of the music universe.

What this means is that 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.

A third of the tracks are improvised, which only serves to further emphasize the strength of the connection between the quartet members, because there is very little to differentiate those tunes from those built on compositions.  They are all plugged in to the same creative vision.  A song like “When Night Falls” has the same drifting rhythms and shimmering melodic beauty as the gentle ballad “Soft Starry Night.”

Fabian Almazan is adept at utilizing three sets of keys to great use.  “These Little Hours” has Alamazan piping warm notes on synths up into the air, buffeted up by Dingman’s vibes.  Adding some piano, Almazan gives definition to bright sounds.  “Where the Wind Blows” features Almazan’s piano lifting the song up to higher elevations.  And “Still I Dream” features Almazan’s skittering lines on Fender Rhodes.

Chris Dingman’s work on vibes is the most evident contributor to the music’s dreamy presence.  On “Sunshine Through the Clouds,” vibes twinkle like stars, while Copeland’s bass arco is as thick as moonlight dense enough to be grasped.  Copeland utilizes the arco to strong effect, also, on “Today Means Everything,” balancing a jaunty cadence with some well-placed moodiness.

Almazan’s synths add a bit of dramatic flourish to songs like “When Night Falls” and “Still I Dream,” a harmonic clarion call that makes it sound like the song is coming apart at the seams, unable to contain all that harmonic beauty.  Dingman walks right down the center of this harmonic mist with patiently expressed notes, as if outlining the area in space where the melody exists, and creating a path for the listener to follow along.

There are a handful of interludes spread throughout the album.  These represent most of the improvisational aspect to this album, and it appears to be small clips of those conversations, added as brief harmonic transitions between songs.  By themselves, they wouldn’t be particularly special, but as part of the album’s thematic flow, they provide a boost of heady substance, harmonic washes that serve to enhance the subsequent melodies, and provide them a bit of gravitas.

The album ends with the lively “I’d Be Lost,” which kicks up some dust in between grand statements.  Dingman and Almazan both fire off some impressive lines, but it’s Joe Nero’s easy-going approach to tempo that provides the song with its eminently enticing nature, featuring the contrast between speedy deliveries and a casual stroll.

It’s a pleasantly lively send-off for an album that spends most of its time drifting along, and it accentuates the music’s delicate beauty by displaying some toughness.

A genuinely beautiful album.  The kind that is so easy to let play over and over again.

Your album personnel: Bryan Copeland (bass), Fabian Almazan (Fender Rhodes, piano, synth), Chris Dingman (vibes, glockenspiel), and Joe Nero (drums).

This Self-Produced album was released in 2011.

Listen to more of the album on the artist’s Bandcamp page.

Jazz from NYC.

Available at:  Bandcamp | CDBaby Digital | eMusic | Amazon MP3