Dave Zinno Unisphere – Stories Told – [TrackList follows] – Whaling City Sound WCS 113, 66:39 [4/5/19] ****:
(Dave Zinno – double bass, producer; Mike Tucker – tenor saxophone, co-producer; Eric “Benny” Bloom – trumpet, flugelhorn; Tim Ray – piano; Rafael Barata – drums)
Bassist Dave Zinno continues his Latin jazz-oriented narrative on the 66-minute Stories Told, a follow-up to Dave Zinno Unisphere’s 2016 release, River of January. Over the course of nine tracks (five originals and four covers) Zinno and his Rhode Island-based group explore material either related to Latin music or re-imagined as Latin jazz. The quintet on Stories Told comprises Zinno (he’s studied bass with Gary Peacock and Walter Booker, Jr. and has performed with Dianne Schurr); tenor saxophonist Mike Tucker (sideman to Esperanza Spaulding, Joe Lovano, Branford Marsalis, Jane Monheit and many others); Eric “Benny” Bloom on trumpet and flugelhorn (he has played and/or recorded with the Dave Matthews Band, Dr. John, Mark Whitfield and scores more); pianist Tim Ray (long-time pianist for Lyle Lovett, and has accompanied Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt, Soul Asylum and lots of other musicians); and drummer Rafael Barata (who has been in the studio or on stage with Eliane Elias, Kenny Barron, Herbie Hancock and numerous other artists). Together this unit makes its way through compositions which range from the Beatles to Jobim, as well as tracks which have different connections to Brazil.
Zinno contributes three cuts. First there is the geographically-driven homage, “Larrytown,” which is dedicated to Laranjeiras, an artist-friendly neighborhood—affectionally called Larrytown—south of Rio de Janeiro. In the CD liner notes, Zinno states, “This piece is about my daily remembrances of people and places and hopefully evokes a bit of the feeling there.” Laranjeiras translates from Portuguese as ‘orange trees,’ thus there is a sweet melody which runs through this swinger which highlights Zinno’s warm, woody bass improvisations, Tucker’s soaring tenor sax interplay and Bloom’s equally honied horn performance. One of the most intricate tracks is “Tá,” which is ‘okay’ or ‘fine’ in Portuguese. Zinno admits, “Musically this was one of my favorite compositional ideas for this project that turned out to be the most difficult to develop.” This six-minute piece has what Zinno describes as a ‘long form’ and has complex rhythmic elements which combine Brazilian and North American ‘Latin’ styles. The sophistication, however, never gets in the way of the swinging and affable arrangement. Zinno changes to a funky foundation for the nearly seven-minute “Backup,” where Ray shines on acoustic piano while Zinno and Barata align on a grooving beat.
Tucker penned two compositions for this CD. “The Opener” starts with a moderate intro which would have made an apt album opener, but the arrangement quickly notches up to a hard-swinging affair which has a faster pace which would be detrimental for inaugurating the record. Tucker is the standout here, playing solid and steadfast. Tucker’s other tune has a separate tone and texture. Tucker created “Requiem” on the 19th anniversary of his father’s death. Tucker says, “I woke up thinking about him that day and sat at the piano. Most songs I write take me a long time to work out, but I think I wrote this song in about 30 minutes.” The poignant piece has a slight hymnal ambiance which adds to the celebratory and memory-laced impression. Bloom and Zinno are notable, especially when Zinno switches to arco.
Two tracks have direct Brazilian links. The album commences with “Neurótico” by João Theodoro Meirelles, better known as J. T. Meirelles, a Brazilian saxophonist and flautist who is considered one of the creators of the samba-jazz rhythm. Barata brought this one to the studio. Barata taped this tune on Meirelles’ final release in 2005, so the track is both a celebration of Rio’s musical history as well as a tribute to Barata’s friend and musical associate. One of the lengthier works is the interpretation of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Triste,” the CD’s concluding tune. The band does a great job with this classic, a standard done by Frank Sinatra, Oscar Peterson, Lee Konitz and dozens more. The most ear-opening statement is the 7:20 re-arrangement of Lennon and McCartney’s pop ballad, “Michelle,” one of the most-covered songs in pop history. Ray mentioned to Zinno he had transformed this huge Beatles hit specifically for this project and of course Zinno included it for the album. Zinno avows, “This was a favorite for us all.” Multicultural music can go in many directions. One of the most enjoyable is the Brazilian/Latin jazz branch, which is always full of passion, groove and masterful music. Dave Zinno Unisphere proves there are plenty of tales to be experienced in this jazz territory.