Vela the Band reunites in Seattle for long-delayed debut concert
Dylan Hayes, Serena Albero and Xavier LeCouturier formed Vela the Band four years ago, but this month in Seattle the group will play their first live shows. They've recorded two songs so far, and The New Cool brings you a broadcast debut Friday night on KNKX.
Formed while studying at Cornish College in Seattle in 2018, Hayes said that he and LeCouturier "randomly hit up Serena and we played some music, wrote some music...it happened very organically. She's seriously one of the best vocalists I've ever heard. She's incredible."
That same year, the group recorded two songs together at Seattle's Studio Litho. Collaborators since high school, Hayes says he and LeCouturier are excited to "write beautiful music we all love...music with lyrics, because that opens so many more doors. If you have to put a genre to it, you could say it's pop-slash-neo-soul-slash-jazz."
Hayes uses his large ensemble experience to create the intricate arrangements of Vela the Band's earliest compositions. "Tell Us" includes a trio of strings, and young Puget Sound area players Ray Larsen, Santosh Sharma, Martin Budde and Stanley Ruvinov round out the group on trumpet, saxophone, guitar and upright bass.
Albero's fluttering vocals dance above the optimistic song of friendship and belonging. Hayes and Sharma take quick-witted solos as LeCouturier sets the stage with upbeat brush work. "Tell Us" is closer to a modern pop song, if only for the under-four-minute running time.
The unreleased song "Who I've Been" opens with a repeated piano phrase, clapping and Albero's voice effortlessly introducing the tricky melody. Her singing of both lyrics and melodies show Albero's jazz-informed improvisational skills, using her voice as an instrumentalist would their instrument.
LeCouturier develops a complex rhythmic backbone on drums, creating a passionate tension that draws powerful solos from Rex Gregory on flute and Sharma on saxophone. After a return to Albero's theme, Larsen plays a striking trumpet solo leading to an extended fade out that leaves the listener hoping for a full album in the near future from Vela the Band.
Hayes and LeCouturier will release the songs as a digital single on their new West Meridian Records label.
"It's kind of like a trial run," Hayes says of the label's debut offering, due June 4.
Hayes, Albero and LeCouturier had booked their debut performance as Vela the Band at the Zinc Bar in New York City for March 31, 2020. Of course, that was one of the thousands of concerts cancelled in the pandemic's early days.
On May 25 at the Royal Room in Seattle, Vela the Band will finally play their first show for an audience. Frequent collaborator Martin Budde will be in the band, and also leading his own trio that night.
Their second show is June 2 at Eureka! in University Village, followed by a just-announced performance at the Snapdragon Bakery and Cafe on Vashon Island June 3.
LeCouturier is currently the only member of the group living in Seattle. Hayes lives in Oregon and Albero is currently based in Spain, so these are rare opportunities to see Vela the Band live.
Fans can also make the drive to Portland to see Vela the Band at The 1905 on June 4, which is also Hayes' birthday. That's sure to be a celebration worth the long drive!
Plans are tentative for Vela the Band's future, though Hayes hints at a possible trip to Barcelona to record with Albero's father, pianist Chano Dominguez. He also hopes to secure grants that could help the group take their show on the road.
Tune in to "The New Cool" Friday night to hear Vela the Band, and stay connected as their future unfolds.
The New Cool airs Fridays at 9 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.