Before proceeding, a word about the name of this admirable quartet: AGNZ (jazz from A to Z?) comprises the first letter in the last names of its four membersguitarist Jay Azzolina, tenor saxophonist Dino Govoni, drummer Adam Nussbaum and bassist Dave Zinno. It further denotes, presumably, a certain level of parity, a selflessness and camaraderie among equals in which the sum of their efforts is always more decisive than its component parts.
Chance Meeting, the group's first recording together, isn't arbitrarily named; its genesis was indeed a chance meeting between Zinno and Nussbaum (touring in Italy) after which Nussbaum suggested that the bassist get in touch with a friend, guitarist Azzolina, who lived near Zinno in Rhode Island. After landing a gig in Providence, Zinno and Azzolina invited Nussbaum and Govoni to make it a quartet, which led ultimately to this album, in which they pay implicit tribute to someone they all loved and admired, the late tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker.
To underscore the symmetry of the group, each member contributed original compositions, the whole of which comprises the sum and substance of the album. Govoni's debt to Brecker is apparent from the outset, especially so on his warm-hearted "Lament for Michael Brecker." Azzolina, for his part, employs an angular, resonant guitar that is for the most part decorous, whether comping or soloing. The quartet is at its collective best on "Lament," as it is on other even-tempered themes such as Nussbaum's "My Maia" and "Insight, Enlight" or Zinno's "Asha" and "14." Azzolina's "Jimmy's Blues" is a well-grooved charmer, while Zinno's "Meat Sauce" adds a funky sauce to the mix.
Speaking of taste, Nussbaum's drums may at times be a tad too upfront and busy for some tastes. That's notably the case on the sunny opener, Azzolina's "Problem Child," on Govoni's "N.T.I.," which follows, and Azzolina's sinewy "1 of 3." It must be assumed, however, that it was part of the game plan, as everyone digs in hard to reinforce Nussbaum's freewheeling temper. Framework aside, AGNZ delivers more than an hour of tasteful small-group jazz that is well worth savoring.
Problem Child; N.T.I.; Lament for Michael Brecker; 1 of 3; My Maia; Asha; Jimmy’s Blues; 14; Meatsauce; Insight, Enlight.
Jay Azzolina: guitars; Dino Govoni: tenor saxophone; Adam Nussbaum: drums; Dave Zinno: bass.
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