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Werner "Vana" Gierig at Sweet Rhythm
- Jazz

Jazz and Cabaret Reviews

By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower

May 28, 2003

Werner "Vana" Gierig
CD Release Party of Vana: A New Day
Vana Gierig on Piano, Alvester Garnett on Drums, Sean Conly on Bass
Special Guests: Vinicius Barros on Main Percussion, Adriano Santos on Percussion,
and Mark Lambert on Guitar and Additional Percussion

Sweet Rhythm
88 Seventh Avenue South

Vana Gierig and Band
Vana Gierig and Band
Photo by Roberta Zlokower

The last time I was in this Jazz Club, it was called Sweet Basil, and it was a Village hangout for me, where I remember hearing McCoy Tyner, Doc Cheatham, and Abdullah Ibrahim. Now, it's Sweet Rhythm, and it's a great Club, with a bit different ambiance. Tonight, there was not a seat in the house, as Vana Gierig, a musician I have mentioned and photographed in several recent reviews, had a celebration for his new CD, Vana: A New Day. When Vana plays as accompanist to Regina Carter on violin, among other musicians, he adapts to a Classical/Jazz theme, as appropriate. However, when he develops and plays his own music, then one sees something brand new. Vana, who was born in Germany, creates and performs with a Brazilian influence, and it's not only a delight to hear; this music is danceable, inspirational, uplifting, exciting, and different! Vana allows his main musicians, Alvester Garnett on drums and Sean Conly on bass, to be featured often. There are softly brushed drums and wild, staccato crashing of sticks and metal. There are warm, slow bass passages, mixed with fast, bass finger-work. With the lead song, I Love Paris, in this Club known for superb acoustics, Alvester brought out the strength of his drums, striking the metal sides for effect. The crisp, ever-changing mood in this piece was a preview for the eclectic rhythms and character of the following pieces, most of which can be found on Vana: A New Day.

Vana's music fuses Jazz with Brazilian percussion, with soft, classically sounding piano tunes, with tambourines, shakers, and instruments called pandeiro and repinque, as well as vocalizations and hand clapping. The addition of the Mark Lambert's guitar stretched the tones to even greater diversity and brilliance. And, Vana Gierig may be the only pianist, who can actually create Brazilian vocals from his keyboard. I thought of dancing Samba with Carlos Porto, but he was nowhere to be found. An Awakening Thought, written in memory of the tragedies of September 11, 2001, was titled along a quote from Thomas Carlyle, "Thought once awakened does not again slumber; instead it unfolds itself…". (CD Notes). This piece had an evocative piano lead, followed by softly brushed drums and a soulful, murmuring bass. The music was invigorating, yet comforting, in a subtle way.

Vana used Samba School influenced "batacudas", in which every drum has a specific role, and one percussionist sends calls and responses to the others; Adriano Santos, Vinicius Barros, and Alvester Garnett created the musical image of Brazilian Carnivale. When Alvester was featured in a primal percussive passage, the crowd at Sweet Rhythm went wild. Healing in Foreign Lands was creatively spiritual. At one point in this first set, Mark Lambert even played small shakers, when the guitar was quiet and percussion was prevalent. Yet, soon after, his guitar took a Brazilian Samba up and away, with eery, high tones that drove the primitive imagery. Even later, Vana, too, joined in on Latin drums, as the piano was quiet and the Club shook.

Watch for a review of Vana: A New Day, which has much of this memorable music captured for home listening. However, the best way to hear Vana Gierig and his musicians is live. Watch Jazz Listings for Vana's next gig.

Pat Philips and Brad
Photo by Roberta Zlokower

Ettore Stratta and Brad
Photo by Roberta Zlokower

Alvester Garnett on Drums
Photo by Roberta Zlokower

Vana Plays the Drums
Photo by Roberta Zlokower

Vana at Leisure
Photo by Roberta Zlokower

Vinicius Barros and Alvester Garnett
Photo by Roberta Zlokower

Sean Conly, Bassist
Photo by Roberta Zlokower

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at