Spinning Wheel - Single (2020)
Review By Dan Fister
July 23, 2020
North Carolina-based vocal jazz a cappella group Avante gives an inventive rendition of the fusion standard Spinning Wheel. The single from the octet's forthcoming EP, Coda—recorded and mixed in stunning quality by Pablo Vega and exquisitely mastered by Dave Sperandio—showcases the group’s silky, bass-forward sound.
Kevin Badanes constructs the arrangement around the group’s talented bass, who not only opens the track solo but also ushers in each new section and stylistic change. The group plays around with the song's funk feel, at times evoking prog rock and Latin jazz. Thankfully these musicians omit the polka that ends Blood, Sweat & Tears’ original track. Several added vamp sections layer motifs to build to fantastic heights. The fresh arrangement keeps the listener wondering, what will the group do next?
Like the song’s titular wheel, Avante's upper voices spin together into a beautiful tapestry of tight harmonies and intricacy. However, they seem reluctant to let loose on the louder, funkier parts, perhaps concerned that they will lose their carefully-honed jazzy blend. I would love to hear them experiment with different timbres throughout the song, as their bass does. Rachel Chalhoub, who is not a member of Avante, adds spot-on vocal percussion that meshes with the song’s various grooves without pulling focus.
If Spinning Wheel’s creativity and musicality are indicative of what’s to come, listeners should keep their ears to the ground for Avante’s future musical offerings.