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Vicente Archer on Holding Down the Center, and Being Present in the Groove

Vicente Archer, whose bass lines can be heard with Robert Glasper, Nicholas Payton and many others.
George Langford

The line outside the Blue Note stretched well down West Third Street last week, and the air buzzed with an energy not experienced in well over a year. Inside the club, pianist Robert Glasper didn't waste any time delivering the goods — and at the center of his group's sound was a longtime collaborator, bassist Vicente Archer.

He stood just barely outside the spotlight, maintaining a tight rhythmic fellowship with drummer Justin Tyson. Whether grooving in the hip-hop tradition, burning out in 4/4 swing or coalescing around an odd-meter excursion, Archer was poised and present — a combination that has come to mean even more to him, as he told me recently.

At the Blue Note, Archer was the last member of Glasper's band to be featured as a soloist. During that solo segment, he employed a measured use of double stops and single note lines to make a very direct, lyrical and moving statement that seemed to express the relief, gratitude and commitment to the moment that many were feeling in the room. With every note rendered from the heart and in its right place, the confirmation that followed was a rousing applause.

Archer — who can also be heard in person and on albums by Nicholas Payton, The Black Art Jazz Collective, Kenny Garrett and John Scofield, among many others — says that the pandemic's 14-month break has allowed him to be more mindful. He's actively seeking new ways to musically master the moment and be even more present in his musical explorations, with others and on his own. In this conversation, Archer sheds light on his 20-plus years in the business, and also shares his burgeoning desire to step forward as a bandleader and songwriter.

The Blue Note Jazz Festival continues through Aug. 15; read more here.

Greg Bryant has been a longtime curator of improvisational music. At the age of 3 in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, he was borrowing his father’s records and spinning them on his Fisher Price turntable. Taking in diverse sounds of artistry from Miles Davis, Les McCann, James Brown, Weather Report and Jimi Hendrix gave shape to Greg's musical foundation and started him on a path of nonstop exploration.