Bobby Zankel & The Warriors Of The Wonderful Sound Tritone/Chris Jazz Café Phildelphia, PA May 4-5, 2006 The first thing one notices about Bobby Zankel & The Warriors Of The Wonderful Sound is what is missing from their music: The usual, "head / solo / head" motif that is de rigeur in bebop. The Warriors are a truly integrated band in the deepest sense of the word. The band played at Tritone on May 4, and at Chris' Jazz Café on May 5, 2006, both in Philadelphia, celebrating the release of their excellent new CD Ceremonies of Forgiveness (Dreambox Media) label. Ceremonies features seven original Bobby Zankel compositions. An alto player, Zankel has created uniquely complex arrangements which touch on the periphery of free jazz. This is not completely unexpected, as Zankel, along with fellow Warrior Elliot Levin, are long time members of the Cecil Taylor Big Band. Their Friday night performance presented the full fourteen member contingent of Warriors, which included three trombones, three trumpets, four saxophones, and one guitarist, one drummer, a bassist and a pianist. Three extended pieces, including two from the current CD, and a song dedicated to the late Jackie McLean entitled "We Miss You Sadly, comprised the initial set.
Deserving particular mention were drummer Craig McIver and pianist Tom Lawton. McIver created a palette of textures and rhythms and was the engine powering the band. He never overplays, but is keenly aware of where the band is going and how to get them there.
In this type of setting, a pianist can be noticed for all the wrong reasons, or get swallowed in the music. Lawton did not allow either to be the case, as he laid out where appropriate and provided some captivating double handed runs.
While avoiding the "head / solo" approach, the music provided ample room for the musicians to improvise within the structure of the compositions. All members of the band acquitted themselves quite well, making it easy to see why the Warriors are a staple at Tritone. One could perhaps find fault with their failure to announce the songs titles. This may seem to be an exacting complaint, but it was the only one of the night.