Hampton Roads has no shortage of local musicians attempting to make names for themselves, by any means, but when a great artist emerges with an impeccable sound and a soulful heart, you pay attention.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Jacob Vanko made his way to Norfolk, Virginia to plant his powerful voice and intricate lyrics onto a wide range of folky-soul tunes to bluesy Americana rock songs.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jacob and his producer/drummer, Rich Mossman, in Rich’s home studio last week.
The Jacob Vanko Band: JacobVanko.com
Vanko has been in this studio for roughly two years putting together an album of all original songs. He is the sole lyricist and has been drawing inspiration from notable song writers like John Prine, Bruce Springsteen, and Conor Oberst to make his songs complex stories and then he couples those stories with a wide range of melodies. Rich has been with him the entire time to make suggestions and helps arrange the music.
Recently, the Jacob Vanko Trio became the Jacob Vanko Band when they added lead Jazz/Rock electric guitar player, Tony Mata, to complete their stylistic conversion, saying, “We wanted to establish a band of excellent diverse musicians.” It’s safe to say that they hit the jackpot when it comes to gifted musicians.
One of my favorite things about this band is also what makes them very unique. Their talented bass player, Jordan Ponzi, is the one standing on stage with an upright bass instead of your traditional four-string, adding style and panache to an already eclectic ensemble.
Jacob and Rich played me a few original tracks that are featured on their upcoming album. These guys embody depth, emotion, and originality with each song and performance. There are no planned moments while on stage and their heart and dedication is evident from the first note you hear. Jacob writes what he feels and doesn’t quit until it has been perfected. His live performances are loaded with soul-rock vibes that you can almost see reaching towards the audience and they live for those transcendent moments where the music grips the soul.
All-in-all, having the pleasure to watch these guys live is an experience you do not get with a lot of bands in this area. They will show you raw emotion from the very second they step onto the stage, they will keep you on your feet with their assorted funky tunes, and they will tell you story after story if you give them the chance.
The Jacob Vanko Band is playing this Friday, June 19th at The Parlor on Granby Street in Norfolk. Look for their album later this summer.