Album Review: Survival Instinct: the Evilution of the Pack from Justin Varnes
Artist: Justin Varnes
The music of drummer/bandleader/composer Justin Varnes on his latest release Survival Instinct: the Evilution of the Pack has political overtones according to the press release. However, listening to the music and being completely unaware of Varnes’s political messages in the music, one would think his sonic statements have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the evolution of swing music, embracing the socializing among musicians synonymous with swing. The instruments display a playful socializing from top to bottom of the recording, all making the music fun and delightful.
The sleek bowing played by Kevin Smith on the upright bass through “Red Mouse Blue Mouse” is joined by the agile tapping of Varnes’ drums and the rustling patter of Rosen’s keys, creating a smooth banter among the musicians. The nimbleness in the musicians movements are sharp while maintaining a state of flux then cuts into the suave twirls of “Emanuel,” demonstrating a smooth sensuality in the music that is reminiscent of 20th century burlesque jazz. “Postlude” closes the album with a lamenting version of “The Star Spangled Banner” that is moving.
Blending elements from swing, bebop, blues, and smooth jazz, Varnes demonstrates an astuteness that is sonically pleasing for audiences. The socializing, bantering and improvising performed by the musicians make the compositions an aural delight.
Justin Varnes – Drum Set
Mark Rapp – Trumpet
Luke Weathington – Alto
John Sandfort – Tenor
Nick Rosen – Piano
Kevin Smith – Bass