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.
Catch up on the latest reviews of Dino Govoni’s “Hiding In Plain Sight” from Jazz Square, Making A Scene, and Presto Music
Tenor saxophonist Dino Govoni is best known as a longtime professor at the famous Berklee College in Boston and an excellent session musician. So on our site until now, his name has appeared as a participant in the recordings of other performers. But he also has his own leadership records. He does not often release his own albums, mainly on Whaling City Sound. And his last album, the third on this label, appeared here after a long break.
Hiding in Plain Sight was recorded in Brooklyn in January 2020 as a quintet. For this project, Dino put together an excellent team. The second brass voice in the quintet was the trumpet player Alex Sipiagin, one of the most successful representatives of the Russian jazz diaspora in the States, the place at the piano was taken by Dino’s main assistant on the project, Henry Hey, Michael Pope played the bass, and one of the most popular modern ones sat at the drums. jazz drummers Jeff “Tain” Watts.
Together they performed a program of nine songs. Dino’s greatest interest was aroused by the music of the jazz veteran Paul Nagel, who worked with Robben Ford, Bobby McFerrin, Boz Skaggs: the album included as many as four of his compositions. Hey brought two plays to the project, one each by Pope and Govoni himself. Stylistically, the music of Hiding in Plain Sight is a typical neo-pop mainstream with a stable structure of pieces, developed solo performers and a relatively regular rhythm. For those who love this direction, Hiding in Plain Sight is just perfect, given the high class of performers. For me personally, the favorite of the album was Nagel’s play Falling Ahead with its somewhat mysterious atmosphere and catchy melody. But this is already a matter of tastes.
As for Dino Govoni himself, Hiding in Plain Sight gave me an interesting observation. Today in American jazz there is a whole cohort of the most talented tenor saxophonists of Italian-American origin. And next to the giant Joe Lovano, next to Jerry Bergonzi and George Garzone (by the way, Dino’s teachers), Dino Govoni also occupies a worthy place in it.
Only Love Will Stay
Whaling City Sound
Organ trios generally take the soul-jazz path, to the point where such a configuration is too easily stereotyped. Guitarist Rale Micic will argue that he still brings plenty of soul in this quartet setting, Slavic soul that is. As such, it is a refreshingly different sound that most associate with the guitar-organ- drum combo. They lay down a mix of original sounds and those inspired by guitarist John Abercrombie’s recordings with organ. Micic did play and record with Abercrombie before he passed away, citing Abercrombie’s song “Even Steven” which appears here as a tribute to him.
Micic has stellar company. B3 organist Jared Gold, a longtime fixture in Dave Stryker’s bands is aboard along with one of the most in-demand drummers in jazz, Johnathan Blake on five of the eight selections with New Orleans drummer Geoff Clapp on the other three. The accompanists have played together in previous settings and/or recordings but this marks the first time Mimic played with Gold.
The solemn title track opens, setting the tone for the album as Micic claims was mostly inspired by the pandemic in terms of love and loss. Yet this tune gets some spark from Gold who takes dazzling runs across the keys in contrast to the leader’s thoughtful slower paced array of notes. For his part, Clapp delivers a propulsive undercurrent with a few flurries around the traps. Clapp brought the idea of a bossa nova treatment to the standard “How Deep Is the Ocean” as you hear his brushes subtly accompanying Mimic’s archtop guitar’s statement of the melody while Gold comps and delivers the bass lines. “Savas,” the final Clapp tune, is filled with dynamic changes and some stirring intense interplay between all three members, with both the leader and Gold soaring at times while Clapp maintains his dynamic presence. It is especially meaningful to MIcic as it is the name of both his father and son.
The Abercrombie piece, “Even Steven” is one of the more animated tunes, featuring Blake and some of Micic’s most melodic playing as Gold hits some strong chords and then takes his own inspired flight. “Better Days Ahead” begins calmly and keeps building, propelled largely by Blake’s insistent beats bursts, especially during Gold’s excursion. Micic plays with remarkable tone, precision, and his own unique Slavic feel which typically involves minor keys. “January” slides back down several notches into almost a requiem-like hymn. “Riverdale,” named for the section in the northern Bronx where Micic and his wife now reside, finds a nice balance between tender and New York style upbeat, complete with some Blake explosiveness on the kit.
The lush closer, “Lipe Cvatu (Linden Trees Are in Bloom) sounds differentiated form the others as it’s in 7/8 time and was not written by Micic but by Sarajevo national icon Goran Bregovic for his rock band, Bijelo Dugme. Apparently 7/8 time is a Balkan staple but Micic and the trio take what was a popular party song for the leader growing up in the ‘80s and transformed it into a more subdued form in a different arrangement. Given its Balkan ties, this tune may best represent the notion of “Slavic soul,” as the guitar lines could easily be interpreted as a cousin to the blues.
One listen to Micic’s approach will have you questioning the organ trio stereotype and embracing this project as something refreshingly different and as inspiring, perhaps even more so.