How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Matt Zebley’s straight-ahead session was recorded at a small café in Los Angeles. At twenty-eight, the artist works from the modern mainstream, establishing his unique voice. Tradition and exploration work side by side. Building a quintet without piano or other chording instrument has proven to be quite rewarding for the Berklee grad, who composed most of the pieces for this project. The ensemble sound is constructed so that the members provide the harmony instead. Of course, that also requires some horn accompaniment during solo breaks. It works.
"Latham’s Lament" features the leader’s alto sax in a ballad setting; a brief sample can be heard over the World Wide Web. "Eastbound" is a feature for Ron Stout, an exciting trumpeter with a fluid technique and a respected lyrical ability. Zebley’s "Io" is a dramatic piece that turns loose bass and drums, eventually leading into a free jazz chorus that involves everyone. The mood loosens up for a time, stretches out, then returns to the more structured, composed nature of the piece. As with many live recordings, the sound is dry in places, allowing the tone to come in as a shallow "whoosh" instead of with rich studio overtones. This up-close-and-personal approach works, allowing the listener to feel as if he’s sitting in the café watching and tapping along as part of the action. Zebley’s debut album is an excellent mainstream session from the world of unsung heroes out there who want to share their music and are waiting to be recognized.