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Patrick Zimmerli: Expansion

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It was a hot and humid summer day a few years ago as I asked the ticket seller which of the 10 movies showing was the longest. That was the lone criteria for me to catch director John Salles’ Lone Star. You see, normally I go in for escapist science fiction, car chase, and suspense movies, what my wife calls testosterone theatre. The movie, lasting nearly three hours (a respite before I had to face the sweaty world), unfolded in an odd way. Characters revealed themselves, not in stock Hollywood fashion, but as layered conflicting souls. The movie turned on an unusual plot, delighting me beyond the special effects thrill rides I usually devour.

I get the same feel from the music of saxophonist Patrick Zimmerli. The 1993 Thelonious Monk Composers Competition winner opens his latest with “Sand” a fourteen minute drone piece based on North Indian and Japanese Gagaku misc. A bit confused, I felt the slow progression, heard individual players come in, state their claim, and exit. Interested, I was along for the ride.

Like Explosion (1995) the quartet clarifies their approach with the familiar. On Explosion they covered Miles Davis’ “Seven Steps To Heaven;” here it is Thelonious Monk’s “Evidence” and the classic “Invitation.” They cover Monk much like Kahil El’ Zabar’s Ethnic Heritage (percussion) Ensemble would, except for the percussion part! Satoshi Takeishi’s stripped down drum set includes a traditional Japanese taiko drum and minimal cymbals. He approaches rhythm as an equal to the horn, guitar and bass. His hand drumming on “Evidence” doesn’t keep time as much as it honors it. The quartet plays as if the songs are given and their role is simply to fill in the color and shading. For Zimmerli, Ben Monder is the perfect fit. His prior Arabesque discs, Excavation (2000), Dust (1997), and Flux, on Songlines show a pension and patience for Zimmerli’s vision.

Guided by world, classical, and a post-Coltrane vision, Zimmerli’s saxophone plays a layering game. Solos are contextual not grandstanding. His playing, like his writing and sense of time, relies upon length, blossoming and resignation.

Track List:Sand; Evidence; The Elements Suite: Fire/Earth; Air; Water; Invitation.

Personnel: Patrick Zimmerli

Record Label: Songlines Recordings

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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