At first, Jean Pierre Zanella’s Montreal-based band on the "Mother Tree" album emerges as merely a very competent ensemble. They are a tight-knit group, but the sound on the initial pieces is fairly conventional. There are few innovations and the improvisations offer no surprises.
It is only when Zanella introduces ‘Dozen Matter’ that the band not only sounds proficient, but interesting. The complete band starts to take off, shakes off the dust, and gets a bit wild. They lose their inhibitions and the results are impressive. It’s a crazy dance with horn dissonance and sly, fanciful piano-work grounded by a strong percussive presence. It’s a marvelous combination that could lead into an extended, swirling jam.
Likewise, ‘How Insensitive’ starts with an ominous bass line by Michel Donato, then swiftly merges into a gorgeous melody performed by Zanella on saxophone. Pianist James Giefand offers a sweet and passionate touch to ‘you and i.’
There is a touch of subversive humor in ‘The last parade of Minishtov.’ The piece is a mordant, slightly anarchic march of absurdity. It has a Gogolesque sense of wit and satire. It’s a very innovative performance by Zanella and drummer Paul Brochu that is the antithesis of being bland.
By introducing Guy Thouin on tabla on ‘Mother Tree,’ the result is both elegant and exotic. It’s a wonder that a tabla isn’t more a part of the jazz spectrum. This title track is an exquisite bucolic meditation.
Jean Pierre Zanella and his band have a lot to offer to the jazz repertory when it dares to be unconventional. "Mother Tree" is worth the effort to track down.