Pete Zimmer pays homage to the music and innovators of the hard bop era on Judgment, an inspired and sometimes exceptional collection of mostly original tunes played by a wonderful group of musicians who clearly share the drummer's admiration of the standards.
"The Mingus That I Knew, written by guest George Garzone, captures the bassist's essence in the arrangement, complete with accelerating tempos and robust colors. The front line of tenorists Garzone and Joel Frahm and trumpeter Michael Rodriguez flawlessly summons the energy and timbre of a big band. Zimmer's "Down or Up is an up-tempo, stylish gem with a smooth arrangement and rock-solid playing by Frahm, Rodriguez and pianist Toru Dodo.
Perhaps "8 A.M. Wednesday Spirit suggests Mingus' "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting, but this sax/drums duet between Garzone and Zimmer tears a page from the Interstellar Space playbook as well. The title cut gives Dodo and the two sax players a chance to display fire and lyricism during their solos and quick-witted dialogue.
Rodriguez's solo on the bop strut "Dot Dot pushes the envelope toward bassist David Wong, who contributes a crisp plucked solo. The full-bodied bossa nova of "Tutti Italiani is good, but of all the songs on Judgment, the Zimmer/Dodo collaboration "Cut Off might be the definitive onebecause it both looks ahead to the future and to back the past by applying a challenging chord structure to a classic hard bop context.
The Mingus That I Knew; Down or Up; To My Papa; 8 A.M. Wednesday Spirit; Judgment; Dot Dot; Bye Bye Blackbird; Tutti Italiani; Cut Off.
George Garzone: tenor saxophone; Michael Rodriguez: trumpet; Joel Frahm: tenor saxophone; Toru Dodo: piano; John Sullivan: bass; David Wong: bass;
Pete Zimmer: drums.