Dan Barry at the Hartford Advocate writes:
Most jazz jams are of more interest to musicians than to listeners...Since the bulk of the audience are performers themselves, it's not uncommon to find the events hosted by musicians who are big on talent but short on showmanship, crowd rapport and organization. Not so with hosts Frank Varela, Bob Laramie, and Ricky Marshall. They are each technically dazzling, humble, and friendly.
Dan Barry at LocalMotion writes:
You missed the VLM Project at The Hungry Tiger this past Sunday. Let me explain to you how disappointed you are with yourself.
Bob Laramie and Rick Marshall aren't just good. They aren't just amazing. These dudes are supernatural. Laramie's pronunciation on his bass is so loud and so well-formed that he could essentially be a lead player instead of a rhythm player.
You could say the same for Rick Marshall, who drummed and sang at the same time over Bobby Conway's "What You Won't Do for Love." Playing guitar while you sing is difficult enough;moving all four limbs while you sing is damn near impossible.
Paul Ofria at the Hartford Courant writes:
VLM plays a mix of jazz standards, lesser-known covers and originals. Sometimes the music goes into the experimental range and Marshall keeps a sign up sheet for any musician who wants to join the band. There are regular players who followed the project down the road and the trio makes everyone feel comfortable, often encouraging newcomers and less accomplished players to come on stage.
Dan Barry of the Hartford Advocate writes:
I admire that Frank Varela can see past stereotypical "jazz hates pop" small-mindedness, and can call upon pop in the name of creating good music. At another point in his set, he and his drummer turned Jimi Hendrix into a soulful swing, more Motown than blues. He even went so far as to use the theme from The Flinstones as bookends for some lovely improvisation. The effect is that Varela makes jazz accessible to a brunch audience who might not be familiar with the literature, but who can certainly appreciate the form.