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Pete Zimmer: Prime of Life

Dan McClenaghan By

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Prime of Life, drummer Pete Zimmer's fifth recording as a leader, has a clean, crisp, soulful sound. The players of the quartet—all top-notch musicians—meld their talents into a polished cohesion. Zimmer is a fine drummer capable of impeccable timekeeping and intricate, though usually subtle percussive flourishes. Zimmer's music, with its tight grooves, sounds like heartland jazz, like the quintessentially American sound of an organ trio—without, in this case, the Hammond B3 breathing into the mix.

Guitarist Peter Bernstein, who has worked extensively with organists Melvin Rhyne and Larry Goldings, is a tangy presence here, whether laying down a slow, thoughtful, single-noting solo on "Tranquility," or with his ringing, organ-like chording on "Carefree."

George Garzone fronts this quartet outing. The somewhat underappreciated saxophonist seems to fall into the "musicians' musician" category, like Joe Henderson prior to the late saxophonist's late-career breakout recording, So Near, So Far (Musings for Miles) (Verve, 1992). Like Henderson, Garzone solos with a labyrinthine eloquence, smoking in front of bassist Peter Slavov's always solid, always subtle pulse and Zimmer's relentless simmer on "T.T.T.," one of three tunes Garzone contributes to this otherwise all-Zimmer-penned outing.

Where Garzone's "T.T.T" runs hot, Zimmer's "Night Vision" rides on a cool and laidback cruise control. It's a fluid roll, like a big new American-made sedan following its headlights along a freshly-paved highway, on a straight shot through the darkness over gentle rises and falls.

"Almost Home," at just a notch above ballad tempo, features Garzone's most beautiful blowing, and a very piquant solo by Bernstein, leading into the controlled burn of the closer, "The Three Petes," with Garzone—the group's only "non-Pete"—serving up another of his engagingly circuitous saxophone soliloquies.

Track Listing: Prime of Life; One for GG; Tranquility; Carefree; Strollin' Down Bourbon Street; T.T.T.; Night Vision; Almost Home; The Three Petes.

Personnel: Pete Zimmer: drums; George Garzone: tenor saxophone; Peter Bernstein: guitar; Peter Slavov: bass.

Title: Prime of Life | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Tippin' Records

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