Pete Zimmer Quintet
Cecil's Jazz Club
West Orange, NJ
August 11, 2006
An enterprising young drummer, composer, and bandleader, Pete Zimmer stakes his claim inside of the broad parameters of hard bop. Throughout a pair of releases on Zimmer's Tippin' Records label, Common Man and Burnin' Live At The Jazz Standard, all of the essential elements fall into place. A tight, efficient band forges a balanced ensemble sound; three primary soloists, tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm, trumpeter Michael Rodriguez, and pianist Toru Dodo, possess sturdy individual voices; the rhythm section digs in and swings hard, yet can become more flexible when the occasion demands; and, most importantly, several of Zimmer's compositions say something fresh without straying from recognizable stylistic blueprints.
A recent performance at Cecil's Jazz Club was even more impressive than the recordings. Although Zimmer opened a couple of the numbers and played a few extended solos, in large measure the drums weren't in the forefront. He seemed content to keep the band moving in tandem with the terrific young bassist, David Wong. Joel Frahm took the solo honors by finding different ways to approach Zimmer's compositions. On the set's opener, "Down and Up, his thickset tone framed symmetrical, evenly paced lines. Frahm took a far more intense route during "Common Man by connecting low somber tones and high careening sounds. A ballad feature, "Time That Once Was, had a searching quality and included lovely strings of melodies.
Throughout the set Michael Rodriguez showed that he is in the process of developing a distinctive style. Tying together piercing cries, low buzzing sounds, and splendid, clear tones, his "Common Man solo was technically impressive and told a story. Rodriguez started off Zimmer's "Getting Dizzy with bright melodies in the middle register, then spat out a brief phrase and played a softer variation, as if going in and out of focus.
Sounding both lazy and obsessive, Toru Dodo's impressive original composition "Dot Dot was slightly off the set's beaten path. Taken at a deliberate tempo in 3/4 time, the horns repeated overlapping phrases and Dodo's piano added a related theme. As the band broke out into straight-ahead 4/4, his solo included relaxed song-like expressions, brief snaking passages that became longer and more complex, and extended right hand single note lines that were tersely answered by the left.