Tuesday, August 14, 2012

CD Review ~ Out of this Town, Zach Bartholomew Trio

Something for Northern Florida to be proud of.

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"Fresh new spin on jazz" might be a phrase tossed around frequently, as might be "distinctive sound"; when the truth is, this guy is just revamping 70's soul-jazz nicely, that girl is riding the coattails of The Krall, and this quartet sounds like it wrote their new album in 1961, and so on.

I caught ZBT live a few months back, and knew immediately I was privy to something 'new'. I can't always put my finger on it - which, might be a good description for something new. Not to say you wont hear snatches of Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett or Brad Mehldau; but all three members of the group (particularly Bartholomew) have somehow allowed themselves to get right to themselves; and one knows at once upon listening that the experience is original and indeed, fresh.

The album starts strongly - "Stop and Go" efficiently introduces you to each member and is a fine listen - clever on many levels; with a head that will make other musicians go 'wow', a phrase or two reminding me of the great Herbie Nichols. Striking is a confidence in playing that endures for the entire album; an easy-going assurance that your ears are in capable and caring hands. The mid-song tempo change is bold and welcome. Also clever is putting such a track in the lead-off slot where many artists go with "this is what you want me to do"; ZBT instead choosing "This is what we can do, check it out."

"Out of This Town" is an uptempo jazz waltz sporting a certain pleasant liberation in rhythm thanks to drummer Miles Bozeman, Who also takes a dandy solo at the end. The sunny tune could easily be adapted to a throwback r&b hit. "Shades of Blue" relaxes and swings with enjoyable sprawling lines and lush solos; bassist Brandon Robertson hitting a number of nails on the head.

Zach at the recording sessions for "Out of This Town"
A full-bodied, romantic melody permeates the entire track of "Lovers Lament"; carrying it amply from rhapsodic, meterless strumming to mildly-angry driving rock and back again. The plaintiff melody is there even when it's not - making it comparable to the many fine, early RTF compositions.

One could go on. These boys play very well together, and that undefinable something really comes through in both "New Beginnings" and "Road Trip". The former is a jaunty & delightful romp in 5 with prime soloing by Bartholomew and all three enjoying the proceedings; while extended form, a smattering of Monk-like harmonies and modern funk feel make "Road Trip" a most enjoyable ride.

No filler, excellent compositions and even a smart rendering of Coltrane bolster the album. A small distraction is the slightly dull mastering job, hardly noticeable once you're tuned in to all that's going on: both the spirit and accuracy of the performance. Certainly, this is one of the best jazz 'things' to come out of Florida in some time. Don't let it escape you. In one word: "refreshing". - PCJ 

Get your copy of "Out of This Town" at:
Itunes, Amazon or CD Baby.

Zach Bartholomew Trio: Out of This Town

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