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Zollar Systems by James Zollar

Sometimes it’s just nice to sit down and listen to a trumpeter who is unapologetically, a hard-bopper. So tightly aligned with the bebop and swing tradition, one could easily mistake the music on this disc to have come from a 1950s blowing session. With a collection of 10 tracks, originals, as well as two standards and an a few chestnuts that deserved to be dusted off, Zollar brings forth a fresh voice, albeit one that’s been around for a number of years.

Starting on the bugle at the age of nine in his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, he moved to the trumpet at 12. Studies at San Diego City College and The University Of California At San Diego, as well as time studying with Woody Shaw, gave Zollar a solid foundation in both technique and jazz’s harmonic foundations and styles. Moving to New York in 1984 Zollar ended up working with artists like Cecil McBee, Tom Harrell, Tony Bennett, Marty Ehrlich, Mercer Ellington, Hugh Ragin, Don Byron, Weldon Erving and Sam Rivers. Zollar has been a featured soloist in both Wynton Marsalis’ Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and Jon Faddis’ Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra, and Zollar portrayed Buck Clayton in the Robert Altman film "Kansas City."

There really isn’t a track on this disc that isn’t delightful. From the growling Roy Eldridge influenced "Take The Subway Home," to the straight-up bop of "Chicago Preferred," Zollar blazes a trail of fast-lipped, tight harmonically oriented top-notch blowing that will put many of his peers, including those half-his age, to shame. On ballads like the standard "The Nearness of You," it’s obvious Zollar has the gift of not forgetting about the lyric in his playing of the melody. With subtle pitch-bending of notes and various shadings of tone he says more in just the simple opening statement than others do with 10 times the amount of notes.

Backed by an ensemble including youth who are looking to cut their own path, such as the highly talented Stacy Dillard, and superb veterans like bassist Andy McCloud who shows such a refined sense of line during his solo on "Nearness" it should be required for transcription by jazz bassists worldwide, Zollar almost can’t help but play spectacularly. If there is a problem with the disc it’s that the sound of the piano is a bit tinny and thin, but Zollar’s continuing brilliance on the trumpet is what will bring you back to the disc over and over and over and over.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: James Zollar
  • CD Title: Zollar Systems
  • Genre: BeBop / Hard Bop
  • Year Released: 2010
  • Record Label: JZAZ Records
  • Tracks: Chicago Preferred, The Prayer of A Happy Housewife, Take The Subway Home, The Nearness Of You, Spasmodic Moments, Go-En, Slick, Angel Face, Black Winter, and Time To Say Good Bye.
  • Musicians: James Zollar (trumpet, flugelhorn) Stacy Dillard (tenor, soprano sax) Rick Germanson (piano, keyboards) Uganna Okegwo (bass - 1,2,3,5,7,8) Andy McCloud (bass - 4,6,9,10) Bruce Cox (drums) Nabuko Kiryu (vocals - 3, 6) SPECIAL GUESTS Don Bryon (clarinet - 5) Sahoko Sato (vocals - 10)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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