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Zach Brock: Purple Sounds (2014)

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Zach Brock: Purple Sounds How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Virtuosity isn't defined by notes-per-minute; true virtuosity is instrumental mastery surrendering to the demands of the song. Sometimes that can mean shredding with furious intensity, yes; but the real deal also respects music that demands less, rather than more. Violinist Zach Brock is, indeed, the real deal, and Purple Sounds, his second release for Holland's Criss Cross label, finds Brock and his stellar quartet playing exactly what's needed: nothing less; but equally, nothing more.

Beyond two Brock originals, Purple Sounds pays direct tribute to a number of important touchstones for the violinist who, in addition to participating in projects by The Mahavishnu Project
The Mahavishnu Project
The Mahavishnu Project

band/orchestra
, Stanley Clarke
Stanley Clarke
Stanley Clarke
b.1951
bass
and Kerry Politzer, is a member of the forward-thinking rising star large ensemble, Snarky Puppy
Snarky Puppy
Snarky Puppy

band/orchestra
. While he prefers to look forward, Brock isn't one to forget about the past, and Purple Sounds is a very personal look at influential violinists of the past, albeit performed by a rising-star quartet that imbues the music with a strong sense of tradition while keeping in mind present innovations and future possibilities.

Brock tips his hat to Stephane Grappelli
Stephane Grappelli
Stephane Grappelli
1908 - 1997
violin
by including the most iconic song performed by the legendary violinist with Django Reinhardt
Django Reinhardt
Django Reinhardt
1910 - 1953
guitar
, the guitarist's enduring "Nuages." But with guitarist Lage Lund
Lage Lund
Lage Lund

guitar
and bassist Matt Penman creating a bedrock of irregularly metered arpeggios and drummer Obed Calvaire bolstering everything with some near-funk high hat and snare work, this is far—and wonderfully—distanced from the ballad most know and love. Instead, it's reinvented rhythmically and harmonically for the new millennium; only Brock's familiar melody, stretched out further, gives the tune away before Lund takes a stellar chord-heavy solo filled with close voicings and oblique tension-and-release dissonances. Brock's bow control is especially impressive at the start of his solo, more Ponty than Grappelli, as he builds his own modernist interpretation of this classic that's taken so far from the source as to be barely recognizable.

Brock also pays homage to Stuff Smith
Stuff Smith
Stuff Smith
1909 - 1967
violin
with Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
's title track, a blues from the pair's 1957 Verve recording, Dizzy Gillespie and Stuff Smith, again given a 21st century makeover with shifting time but still possessing a swinging middle section that, supported by Lund's more contemporary harmonization, allows the violinist to reference Smith in a most personal way as he shifts from sparer motifs to more frenetic phrases, with Penman walking firmly beneath him and Calvaire maintaining the pulse while, at the same time, responding to everything around him.

But Purple Sounds doesn't just recall well-known four-stringers, like a relatively literal look at Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa
1940 - 1993
guitar, electric
's balladic "Twenty Small Cigars," from Jean-Luc Ponty
Jean-Luc Ponty
Jean-Luc Ponty
b.1942
violin
's King Kong (Blue Note, 1970). With "Quo Vadis"—taken from the shamefully out-of-print Passion (Capitol, 1979)—Brock targets, with great heart, Polish violinist Zbigniew Seifert
Zbigniew Seifert
Zbigniew Seifert
1946 - 1979
violin
—a John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
-informed legend in the making, cut short by cancer at the age of 32—and brings back the memory of the overlooked Harry Lookofsky with Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
's bop-driven "Little Willie Leaps."

Jazz violin remains a relative rarity amidst the plethora of saxophonists, trumpeters, pianists and guitarist. Still, slowly but surely, Brock is making a name for himself. With the one foot in the past/one foot in the future Purple Sounds, it's easy to understand why.

Track Listing: Purple Sounds; Nuages; Twenty Small Cigars; Little Willie Leaps; Quo Vadis; Folkloric; Brooklyn Ballad; After You've Gone.

Personnel: Zach Brock: violin; Lage Lund: guitar; Matt Penman: bass; Obed Calvaire: drums.

Record Label: Criss Cross

Style: Modern Jazz


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