Local Spotlight | ‘The Elements’

Members of Jacksonville’s jazz vanguard drop their 13th release as Madre Vaca.

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Credit: Image provided by Madre Vaca

The latest release from Madre Vaca, The Elements, features the top tier of Jacksonville’s modern jazz scene reestablishing their motivic connections.

On the quartet’s 13th album, each member of the ensemble (Jarret Carter, guitar; Thomas Milovac, bass; Jonah Pierre, piano; Benjamin Shorstein, drums) introduce an extended piece based on one of four earth elements, upon which the accompanying players improvise inventive and often cinematic layers for a live set engineered by JeanCarlo Mendez.

‘The Elements’ from Madre Vaca

Shorstein’s “Fire” kicks off the set, a nearly 15-minute volcanic composition that swings from tranquilly dormant to explosively active, Pierre’s dexterous ivory tickles over the backbone of Milovac’s bass providing the performance’s most transcendent moments. Paired with Shorstein’s tight-but-loose rhythm, Carter’s clean guitar work on his contribution, “Water,” makes the song a strong candidate for an early ‘60s surf film soundtrack. The Milovac-penned “Earth” finds the band at perhaps its most lively and certainly its most dissonant, while Pierre’s “Wind” raises the cabin pressure even further, the group closing out the record in full-flight of an Allman Bros. “Mountain Jam”-esque organized freakout.

The Elements is yet another showcase of the virtuosity of the Madre Vaca boys, who are each elemental members of Jacksonville’s vanguard in their own right. 

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