The very first song here, Live and Learn, tells a lot of what you need to know about Dann Zinn and Grace's Song. A straight-ahead intro leads into angular chops from saxist Zinn as the improv section commences, leaning into a gentle breeze with obtuse assurance. Then pianist Taylor Eigsti, up to this point a member of the rhythm section in left-hand root chords, starts reining in the tempo with his right hand, laying down a simple but signal melody line like glazed tile in a garden before taking up Zinn's trail in a mutated Evansy sparkle-light. Dann re-enters to muscle up the progression and wind down the melody, and then Western Skies erupts in a prefatory solo akin to John Klemmer's old sax-n-effects experiments. Zinn proceeds to toss off the outboard hardware and get down to business, only to keep re-inserting the pedal distortions as contrast. Works well, and Song finds itself becoming a mixture of modes anchored to a straight ahead spirit.
The emphasis is of course on saxophone and piano, but Alan Hall's skinswork moves all around the frontline pair, harmonic and decorative, a constant atmosphere of energetics and ornamentalia, leaving bassist John Shifflett as the true foundation rhythm section, something even Hall plays against. Zinn goes CTI nuts in his leads many times, which is what you come to the CD for, but there are a number of surprises, as in the title cut shuffling in with a surprisingly Turrentine-ish tone and remaining balladic until Shifflet injects a lyrical Mark Eganesque solo, Eigsti then veering into Joe Sample territory. That's when Zinn begins to cut the theme up, yanking the affair into a Saturday Night Live ambiance not all that far, again, from Klemmer's early book.
Sting's The King of Pain, a 9-minute workout perfectly suited to all the instruments, brings the tone down even further, originally a spare lament that, in its simplicity, widely opens doors to interpretations kicked off by Zinn in a Braxton-by-way-of-Garbarek fashion while Eigsti suddenly darkens the background. The players, though, choose not to stray too far from the baseline and thus produce a compellingly moody elemental landscape waxing rhapsodic only at the close, and then only in fevered pronunciamento reflective of the song's title. Bounce factor and abstract layerings walk back in for the next couple songs until closing the entire disc with a reading of one of the most recorded songs on planet Earth, Stardust, blending Klemmer with Tom Scott or Rusty Bryant. In all, then, Grace's Song is a deft balance of straight jazz boasting a generous inflection of fusiony outside chops with contemplative reflections working to pull the calendar back to the 50s, 60s, and 70s while pointing to musos who would run all that past the pale (Colemen, Osby, etc.).
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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