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Zubatto Syndicate – Zubatto Syndicate 2 [TrackList follows] – Boscology

Zubatto Syndicate – Zubatto Syndicate 2 [TrackList follows] – Boscology BOS-ZS-002, 55:46 [6/9/15] ****:

(Andrew Boscardin – guitar, producer, arranger; Beth Fleenor – clarinet; Chris Credit – bass clarinet; Janet Putnam – oboe; Francine Peterson, Coltan Foster – bassoon; Steve Treseler – alto saxophone; Tobi Stone – tenor saxophone; Jim DeJoie – baritone saxophone; Jim Sisko – trumpet; David Marriot, Jr. – trombone; Tim Kennedy – keyboards; Tim Carey – bass; Eric Peters – drums; Mack Grout – synthesizer (track 7))

What do you get when someone conceives a jazz mélange which uses a pop chanteuse, heavy metal music, classic science fiction film King Kong, Japanese manga and more? The only answer would be the Seattle-based, large jazz ensemble Zubatto Syndicate, which takes those disconnected influences and elements and creates what has been dubbed big band jazz music for the post-jazz era.  The hour-long Zubatto Syndicate 2—which can be streamed online—is the second, self-titled release from this sizeable band led by composer/guitarist Andrew Boscardin. With his leadership, the 14-member group (sometimes smaller on stage) transforms an eclectic assortment of inspirations into a memorable listening experience. Zubatto Syndicate 2 is available as a digital download, compact disc or as a double-vinyl gatefold LP. This review refers to the CD configuration.

If a person had to pick one piece which defines this band’s wide-eyed worldview, that would be the 11-minute epic, “The Zeyoncé Suite,” constructed from a medley of pop songs by singer Beyoncé. And if any listeners think they know Beyoncé’s music, think again. Boscardin strings together bits from “Pretty Hurts,” “Flawless,” and “XO” into an assured balancing act which combines jazz with contemporary pop hooks. No one will hear this booming on a dance floor (except, perhaps, in an alternate universe) but the Zubatto Syndicate turns these pop tunes into an impressively striking audio jazz array and in the process crafts an emotive and swinging jazz conception. It’s difficult to top that suite, but Zubatto Syndicate manages to do so with a reimagining of Metallica’s tough-toned “Master of Puppets.” Metallica issued this in 1986 as the title track of their third studio LP, and it’s considered one of the all-time best heavy metal tracks of all time. Boscardin and his band members reallocate the arrangement, using horns and woodwinds (clarinets, oboe, bassoon, saxophones, trumpet and trombone) to replicate guitar riffs and bolster the bass and drums rhythm section. The slower bridge introduces Boscardin’s electric guitar, which rides alongside melodic woodwinds and horns. Solo clarinet adds a beautiful tinge. In the second half, Boscardin escalates and amps up his guitar, skirting toward Metallica’s formidable resonance, but then drops out, and the horns again become the focus. This tune is quite an achievement.

The science fiction components come to the forefront on Boscardin’s originals. Opener, “BBots” has an otherworldly introduction, and then shifts to a funky and soulful cadence. “BBots” has a slinky nuance underscored by expressive sax and a bubbling bass. If robots could dance, this might be what they would shimmy and shake to. There is also a groove streak which washes through “Gort’s Big Day,” named after the humanoid robot from the great 1951 SF movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still. Bassoon takes center stage at one point, and it’s interesting to hear the instrument evoke a funky foundation. A similar, upbeat mood saturates the CD closer, “Go Go, Giant Robo,” inspired by the Japanese manga which was the basis for several television shows and videos.

Two other cuts are also noteworthy. “Skull Island Sarabande,” the shortest number, gets its title from King Kong’s home. The arrangement is grounded on the European triple-meter dance which was later sourced in some classical music works. “Skull Island Sarabande” has a dynamic jazz arrangement which utilizes the triple-meter features in a fun way. “Iggy (Igneous Carapace)” is a harder-edged piece, where Boscardin does a long, rock-based guitar solo which puts this nearly-seven-minute cut into jazz fusion territory. Like the iconic, nostalgia-marked artwork which graces this album, Zubatto Syndicate melds the new and the old, positioning customary jazz amid a modernist, futuristic jazz design. If you’re looking for some adventurous jazz done with humor and sincerity, Zubatto Syndicate should go on your radar. [So far only available on MP3 at Amazon.]

TrackList: BBots; Master of Puppets; Gort’s Big Day; Iggy (Igneous Carapace); Thyonean Butt Rock; The Zeyoncé Suite; Skull Island Sarabande; Go Go, Giant Robo.

—Doug Simpson

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