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Nick Parnell: Vibes Virtuoso


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Glorified elevator music? Not on your life! This synergy of syncopation, melodic maladies and crisp classics carries you on a journey of sound with vibraphonist Nick Parnell and pianist Amir Farid.

The vibraphone breaks new ground and the perception of percussion is challenged as Gershwin meets Handel meets Paganini.

Playing at Adelaide’s Space Theatre as part of an Australian tour to celebrate his third album, Vibes Virtuoso, Parnell welcomes us into the world of challenge, risk and reward. His determination to reinterpret musical creations, unashamedly and at times provocatively, is enhanced with personal narrative, linking music to context and adding another dimension to the resonance of the keys.

From a technical point of view, Parnell and Farid are the consummate duo. The mallets (all four of them; think antennae ears) caress and intimidate the keys while piano forte accompaniment provides exquisite balance; timing is faultless. It is no surprise when our virtuoso expounds that this is music that speaks to me. From baroque to burlesque, this is professional delivery of aural enjoyment.

Vibes Virtuoso is a taster’s platter of sounds: intoxication of tones in Satie’s “Gymnopédie No 2” is contrasted by the staccato and legato that heralds Handel’s “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba”. Parnell’s years of international experience and recognition combine to drive this show on; US vibraphone legend Gary Burton (with whom he studied) would be proud.

What is most refreshing about Vibes Virtuoso is the freshness of artists who “break the rules”. Parnell takes what is meant to be a complementary instrument and places it centre stage; he is brazen and able to carry an audience with him as he confronts preconception with his right foot on the throttle of enjoyment.

This is not a rave scene but it is one that will take musical appreciators to a new level of contemplation. Nick Parnell, you can take a bow, and it is certainly a highlight when you do.

Nick Parnell played at the Space Theatre on Friday and Saturday. His album, Vibes Virtuoso, is available now.

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