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Christopher Zuar: Musings

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Photograph by Jonno Rattman
Photograph by Jonno Rattman
Musings will likely go down as one of the most celebrated large ensemble recordings made this year, and that includes what is to come. I simply cannot see anyone with as good an ear for music making something even remotely close to this one. Justified hyperbole because this young man, Christopher Zuar, who is responsible for this devilishly good recording is prodigiously gifted, an idiomatic and virtuoso writer who seems to dream in every instrument represented here. Thus he fully exploits the rich potential of each of these instruments, writes with layered counterpoint, resonant harmonies, ornate and lyrical melodies, and a gamut of colours, shades, and special effects.

Christopher Zuar MusingsChristopher Zuar suites consist of colourfully-named movements, including dances, fantasy-like musings, evocations of places and sounds. So forward-looking is some of the writing that it seems an age before writers will catch on. Zuar makes an impressive debut as a large ensemble general. His ability to write linear measures is poetic. The tone of his music is by turns robust and delicate, his technique flawless. Experience as a pianist – that king of instruments – gives Christopher Zuar a free and pliant approach, yet it’s always informed by the refined aesthetic of a kind of Baroque idiom, one that sits ever so comfortably in the modern context. ‘Lonely Road’ deserves special mention, as does a most impressive version of Egberto Gismonti’s ‘7 Aneis’.

The spotlight falls not only on the piano, as each instrument contributes an essential thread to these musical discourses. Christopher Zuar is joined by the most eloquent conversationalists, Brian Landrus (woodwinds), Alan Ferber (trombone), Pete McCann (guitar), Frank Carlberg (piano) and Jo Lawry (voice). The details of colour and shades that these musicians and, indeed, every other one in the orchestra, is something unbelievably beautiful. These memorable accounts bear comparisons to some of the best-known works by the greatest jazz orchestras down the ages. For the young Christopher Zuar, this is easily the most impressive achievement overall. And it is not only beautifully performed music but beautifully recorded too.

Track List: Remembrance; Chaconne; Vulnerable States; Ha! (Joke’s On You); So Close, Yet So Far Away; Anthem; Lonely Road; 7 Aneis.

Personnel: Dave Pietro: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, piccolo, flute, alto flute; Ben Kono: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, oboe, clarinet; Jason Rigby: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, clarinet; Lucas Pino: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Brian Landrus: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Tony Kadleck: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jon Owens: trumpet, flugelhorn; Mat Jodrell: trumpet, flugelhorn; Matt Holman: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tim Albright: trombone; Matt McDonald: trombone; Alan Ferber: trombone; Max Seigel: bass trombone; Pete McCann: electric guitar, acoustic guitar; Frank Carlberg: piano, Fender Rhodes; John Hebert: electric bass, acoustic bass; Mark Ferber: drums; Rogerio Boccato: percussion (4, 6, 8); Jo Lawry: vocals (3, 5, 6, 8).

Label: Sunnyside
Release date: May 2016
Running time: 55:17
Buy album on: amazon

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