Publicity: Ken Franckling’s Jazz Notes,
Stories Told: JazzWeek #20
CDs: Distribution: NAXOS of America
Mixed Media Client since: 2015
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!
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.