Pete Zimmer Quartet – Chillin’ Live @ Jazz Factory – Tippin’, TIP

by | Nov 21, 2008 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Pete Zimmer Quartet – Chillin’ Live @ Jazz Factory – Tippin’, TIP1104, 61:45 ****:

(Pete Zimmer – drums, producer; Jeremy Pelt – trumpet, flugelhorn; Avi Rothbard – guitar; David Wong – bass)

Drummer Pete Zimmer is a jazz performer who ceaselessly delivers enthusiasm, verve and swing to traditional bop. Zimmer’s creative muse follows in the footsteps of stalwarts such as Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins (more on him later), Kenny Dorham (more on him as well) and other hard boppers. Zimmer’s fourth release, Chillin’ Live @ Jazz Factory, heeds to the template Zimmer has laid down on his prior albums: keeping bop and post-bop alive and kicking, and bringing skill and freshness to well-grounded jazz.

On this date, Zimmer presents another artist who is also making a name for himself in the jazz arena, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, who is no stranger to horn fans or readers of Down Beat (he’s won awards five years in a row). Along for the ride as well are bassist David Wong, the only holdover from previous Zimmer recordings, and Israeli-born guitarist Avi Rothbard.

The six song list, which represents a mix of Zimmer originals and jazz standards, were part of the second night’s set of a September 2007 ten-day stay at now shuttered Louisville, Kentucky venue Jazz Factory. Throughout, Zimmer keeps the beat moving and grooving, emphasizing a trumpet-guitar approach and maintaining a conventional but never nostalgic outlook.

The foursome kick off the live program with Zimmer’s “Search,” formerly released on the drummer’s debut, an upbeat opener based on an Afro-Cuban rhythm. The elongated number allows Zimmer plenty of space for his formidable drumming, from an intense introductory solo to a continually percolating backbeat that defies people not to get up and shake a tail feather or two, and an equally bouncing solo outro. Pelt makes the most of his lengthy solo sequences, filling the room with his clear, sharp tone and dispensing profuse phrases and riffs.

That’s proceeded by the keen waltz, “Summer Somber,” a nine-minute, lightly-grooving but slightly melancholy piece that has feelings of sadness and emotional damage but also of optimism. Zimmer’s estimable brushwork cooks at a slow boil beneath articulate solos by Rothbard, who lays out a single-string and chord-melody sound similar to Barney Kessel, and Pelt’s stylish technique, which evokes  other sensitive horn players such as Chet Baker.

One of Zimmer’s influences is paid homage when the quartet interprets Sonny Rollins’ classic “Doxy.” Here the rhythm section acts as the steady partners, Zimmer’s cymbals and Wong’s walking bass lines supporting the evening’s longest arrangement, while Pelt favors a muted trumpet during an extended solo execution that elicits early Miles Davis. “Doxy” then shifts to another Zimmer favorite, trumpeter Kenny Dorham. The band does wonders with Dorham’s boogaloo/funk cut “Una Mas.” Its here that Rothbard stands out, showcasing a bluesy Wes Montgomery-inclined tone, with his carefully controlled and fluent picking, with enough progressive movement so things don’t slide into spuriousness.

The set closes with one final Zimmer composition and one final cover. Zimmer’s “Common Man,” which also dates to his first record, is a mid-tempo exhibition where Pelt reprises his Davis-like muted horn, Rothbard again shows his less-is-more style and Zimmer displays his ability to write a memorable melody with diverse moods and anecdotal points. “Common Man” also portrays Zimmer’s percussion tactfulness, where his discreet snare strokes impel the melody along. The ensemble ends with a hard bop version of Cole Porter’s “From This Moment On,” done with a momentum that swings from start to finish. All of the players claim a solo expanse. Rothbard explores his flexibility and resolve, while Pelt engages the audience with his fast-paced trumpet literacy that invokes Freddie Hubbard and Clifford Brown. Zimmer tosses in multiple fills while performing in a straightforward, unassuming manner. Wong confers some exceptional empathy, while his bass work expresses his sympathetic and supportive attitude.

The sound on Chillin’ Live @ Jazz Factory is excellent, despite the single-take recording made within the confines of a noisy jazz club. All of the instruments are cleanly recorded with clarity. The rhythm section loses none of their nuances: Wong’s bass and Zimmer’s cymbals are prominently discernible.  Zimmer states in his liner notes it is his hope “that this album will help bring modern straight-ahead jazz strong into the 21st century.” With dynamic documents such as Chillin’ Live @ Jazz Factory, the bandleader is making healthy headway for his ambitions and aspirations.

1 Search
2 Summer Somber
3 Doxy
4 Una Mas
5 Common Man
6 From This Moment On

— Doug Simpson

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