Attila Zoller is another guitarist who's fame has unfairly faded with time among jazz fans. Like guitarist Gabor Szabo, Zoller was a Hungarian refugee who escaped Soviet invasion. He found his way to Austria in 1948 and moved to the U.S. in 1959 to perform, record and teach. He also had enormous influence over the jazz fusion movement that would start in the late 1960s and flower in the '70s. Among his many fascinating avant-garde albums were three recorded with pianist Don Friedman in 1964, '65 and '66.
As a child, Zoller started on violin before moving to the flugelhorn and then the bass. In high school, he began playing guitar and dropped out to play clubs. After Zoller's arrival in Austria, he became a citizen and started a jazz group there. When Zoller moved to Germany, he played with pianist Jutta Hipp. Touring American jazz musicians, including bassist Oscar Pettiford and alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, urged him to move to the U.S., where greater opportunities existed for his unorthodox approach to the electric guitar.
After his arrival, Zoller studied at the Lenox School of Jazz on a scholarship. There, he studied under guitarist Jim Hall. Ornette Coleman, his roommate, got him interested in the avant-garde and free jazz. In the years ahead, Zoller bonded with specific musicians who shared his musical vision and recorded with them for a period.
Zoller and Friedman recorded three quartet albums together: Dreams and Explorations (1964), The Horizon Beyond (1965) and Metamorphosis (1966). All are wonderful, abstract journeys that are conversational and fast-paced. On the first for Riverside, Zoller and Friedman were backed by bassist Dick Kniss and drummer Dick Berk. On the second, recorded in Germany, they were backed by bassist Barre Phillips and drummer Daniel Humair. And on the third, recorded for Prestige at Rudy Van Gelder's studio, they were joined by bassist Richard Davis and drummer Joe Chambers.
Hang in with these recordings. The music is out there, but if you just let it wash over you and float along with it, you'll hear why the albums are special. Zoller and Friedman were enormously talented, and members of the jagged quartet wrap around each like a ball of barbed wire and move forward as if shot out of a canon.
Attila Zoller died in 1998 at age 70; Don Friedman died in 2016 at age 81.
JazzWax tracks. You'll find Dreams and Explorations here. The other two are out of print and hard to find.
JazzWax clips: Here's the entire Dreams and Explorations album (you can listen to the embedded clip or click on the video's lower right-hand column and go to YouTube.
Here's the entire The Horizon Beyond album...
Here's the entire Metamorphosis album...
This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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