Dave Zinno Unisphere
Mixed Media Client since: 2015
Dave Zinno Unisphere
Whaling City Sound
Bassist and composer Dave Zinno issues his third album, Fetish, with his group Unisphere. Zinno calls it the culmination of a year without live music and thus, it’s a huge, in some cases, unbridled release of energy for he and his band members – Mike Tucker (tenor sax), Eric Benny Bloom (trumpet & flugelhorn), Leo Genovese (keyboards), Tim Ray (piano), and Rafael Barata (drums/percussion), and guest Rafael Rocha on trombone. Most of the dozen tunes, recorded in two six-hour sessions, were composed by band members with Zinno (3), Tucker (3), Genovese (2), and Ray (1). They have their hands in the arrangements as well.
The album kicks off with Zinno’s title track. It’s a rollicking, volcanic thrill ride from the outset, meant to convey both chaos and celebration, that eventually settles into a groove once Genovese takes his keyboard solo, and the leader makes an emphatic bass statement to close it out. Genovese penned the robust, sweeping “Out of the Hole,” one of five where he plays the acoustic piano and Ray sits out. The pace on this one is not quite as frenetic, but it still clips along briskly, propelled by the pianist’s rapid runs and strong horn parts, especially Tucker’s elongated solo. Bloom steps in to make his first compositional contribution to the band on “Unknown Mystery,” a more relaxed pace than the two previous but celebratory and triumphant in tone. The burning pace, (album has not lagged a bit to this point) continues with the first of Tucker’s tunes, “The Golden Age,” one that he Barata crafted together in a 4/4 meter as a tip to hard bop.
“So Close, So Far,” the second of Zinno’s tunes, begins somewhat tentatively, before Tucker and Bloom state the theme, underpinned by the leader’s bass and Genovese comping on the piano, and stellar solos from Tucker and Bloom. Ray arranged “Beatriz,” from Brazilian composer Edu Lobo, presenting the band its first ballad, with Tucker’s gorgeous tenor leading the way. “Future History,” with its dramatic bass intro, is from composer Paul Nagel, a colorful piece featuring a bright sonic palette that again has sparkling turns from the front line and another glistening Genovese piano spot and impressive work on the kit from Barata.
Tucker authored both the sweeping and uplifting “Melancholy Daydream” and “Over the Horizon.” The former features both Ray (piano) and Genovese (keyboards) while the latter has Genovese at the piano. Tucker blows a storm in the former while the “Over the Horizon” breathes more easily but seriously, with Tucker, and Genovese engaged in dialogue before Zinno steps forth with his own poignant statement.
“Into the Whole” is the second Genovese piece, a pulsating jazz waltz that features a glowing flugelhorn solo from Bloom, followed by one of Tucker’s more lyrical statements, a rhythm section break led by Zinno, and a mellow trombone entry that builds into a bright burst of all three horns. “Nile” is one of Zinno’s early 1980s compositions inspired by the film “African Queen.” The band does a great job of creating and improvising the jungle sounds, transporting the listener to those river environs. The final track, “Meu Fraco e Café Forte” is from samba legend Dom Salvador, arranged by Rafael Rocha with assistance from drummer Barata. Unlike the others that were recorded in the studio, this one was recorded remotely with Barata assembling tracks from each member. The title suggests strong coffee and Unisphere, in their consistent fashion, bring the requisite potency, ending with a joyous climax.
This is a most jubilant recording with every track uplifting in its own way. These cats bring their ‘A’ game and swing hard throughout.
Readers have seen this name more than once in the reviews of his releases on the site. Two years ago, we also published a review of the previous album of the Dave Zinno’s Unisphere ensemble called “Stories Told” (2019). And after 2019, as you know, came the year marked by the sign of the COVID-19 pandemic …. … It seems to me that it is just right to introduce a special concept: “post-covid jazz”. Thousands of musicians locked in their homes during a lockdown, deprived of the opportunity to perform in front of an audience, have only one option left: to compose music and hope that the clouds will someday dispel. Some people still managed to give network concerts, but the bulk of them worked at home, for the future. And in 2021, a lot of albums appeared based on these materials, albums in the music of which one can almost physically feel the performers’ joy from the possibility of new meetings, while at least in the studio. “Fetish” is one of them. When Zinno and the musicians of his band gathered in the studio in November 2020, each of them brought the material he had accumulated. It has accumulated in as many as 16 songs. As a result, a 12-track program was selected for recording the album. All the musicians who played on “Stories Told” participated in the recording of the album, plus they were joined by Zinno’s old partner, Argentine keyboardist Leo Genovese, famous for his performances with Esperanza Spaulding, and also, as a guest, another, in addition to Raphael Barata, a Brazilian trombonist Rafael Rocha.
The album contains compositions and arrangements by Ray, Tucker, Genovese, Bloom and, of course, Dave Zinno himself – “Fetish”, “So Close So Far”, and “Nile”. The music of the ensemble, which is still mostly hard-bop in style, breathes with energy, joy of musicians’ communication with each other and, of course, mastery that has not disappeared anywhere. The album was recorded in two sessions, six hours each. As Dave himself says, “This project is the culmination of a year without live music. This record contains all the energy and emotions that have accumulated and have not found a way out for such a long time. Hopefully people will feel what we felt while making this album.” Zinno doesn’t have to worry – you can really hear it in the music of “Fetish”.
Stories Told: JazzWeek #20
Picking up where the enrapturing “River of January” left off, Dave Zinno Unisphere’s follow-up, “Stories Told,” further explores the wild and beautiful jungle of jazz, more specifically, the Brazilian/Latin tributary: electric, funky, passionate, and rhythmic. Zinno (John Medeski, Hal Crook, Adam Nussbaum) here is partnered with Unisphere co-founder Mike Tucker (Arturo Sandoval), Eric “Benny” Bloom (Lettuce), Tim Ray (Tim Ray Trio, Paul Winter Consort) and drummer/percussionist Rafael Barata (Eliane Elias, Marc Johnson, Dianne Reeves). The ensemble is supreme and ambitious, benefiting from having a recording under their collective belt and refinement of the Unisphere mission. The performance is a passionate ode to the band’s multicultural vision.
The recording kicks off with “Neurótico,” by J.T. Meirelles, a samba jazz gem that sets the tone perfectly. Elsewhere, there’s a sweet rendition of Lennon-McCartney’s “Michelle,” arranged by pianist Ray; “Tá,” a rhythmically dynamic fusion of neo-Latin styles; and the powerful “Requiem,” composed by Mike Tucker in his father’s memory, which was heartrending for all of the players. “Stories Told” is, as it should be, a melting pot of pure jazz excitement, performed with verve and executed with inspiration. If you liked “River of January,” a recording with broad appeal and accessibility even considering Unisphere’s gorgeous intricacies, you’ll surely appreciate hearing these Stories.
Most Increased #8 and #5 in Most Added!!
Released, “Stories Told” is already one of the most added and biggest gainers on the JazzWeek chart!
“River of January”
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Unisphere CD Release
Wednesday, January 31, 2018 8p
16 Anawan Street
Fall River, MA 02721 – 508-324-1926
Dave Zinno, bass
Mike Tucker, sax
Tim Ray, piano (formerly with Lyle Lovett and occasionally with Tony Bennett, replaces Leo Genovese for this show)
Rafael Barata, drums
Eric “Benny” Bloom, trumpet$22 advance, $25 day of show
Click link for tickets
with the release of their new recording,
River of January
If there’s one jazz band you’d consider taking a chance to see live, make it Unisphere, Dave Zinno’s tremendous and joyous jazz experience. While the band’s recent recording, River of January—of which this night serves as an official release party—is an immense and beautiful record, there’s no doubt that this music is made for the stage.
The band Zinno has assembled is spectacular and all are citizens/musicians of the world. Unisphere includes the talents of sax man Mike Tucker (Arturo Sandoval), drummer Rafael Barata (Milton Nascimento, Marc Johnson), Leo Genovese (Joe Lovano, Esperanza Spaulding), and Crescent City trumpeter Benny Bloom. Tucker, a co-leader on the date, is frighteningly good and a perfect companion to Zinno. Drummer Rafael Barata is on the Rio jazz scene’s first call list, thanks to astonishing technique and great ideas. Argentine pianist and composer Leo Genovese first worked with Zinno in the band of trombone legend Hal Crook. He’s toured with Spaulding, been a member of Joe Lovano’s band, and played memorably with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. Eric “Benny” Bloom, he of quick wit and showmanship, is himself on the verge of stardom. His New England jazz upbringing plays well now in his New Orleans home.
Digging a bit deeper, the recording takes the vibe of traditional jazz and reverses the paradigm, so the songs, while familiar, evolve and explore. There are many highlights here, and while it wouldn’t be a waste of space, it would be easier to say that these tunes all include rushes of adrenaline, sweetness of melody and serious elements of style. River of January is a work of forward thinking tradition and one that has much substance within it to discover. It’ll be fascinating to see how this material translates, what colors it takes on, how Zinno and the band play it and play with it.
Fans of creative license and jazz invention can dig deep into this record, of course. But best would be to see Unisphere live at the Narrows and pick up their CD on New Bedford’s iconic Whaling City Sound label. It’ll be an excellent way to witness some adventurous jazz up close and personal, and it’s certain to leave you with the great aftertaste of pure jazz joy.
Dave Zinno Unisphere River of January WCS101 Sentimental yet devoid of bathos, forward-surging yet never at the expense of thought or taste, River of January flows in two directions, simultaneously. Some laws, including those of hydrodynamics, are written to be broken. Unisphere, the cooperative (in so many ways than one) jazz band led by bassist/ composer/ arranger/pedagogue Dave Zinno, infuses the vanguard of modern jazz with what I hear as a romanticism all too uncommon in artistic expression corrupted by the materialist zeitgeist. “Evolution” and “change” are not synonymous, and these guys know it.