Jazz violinists are few and far between, especially compared to, say, saxophonists or pianists, although a few like Regina Carter and Jean-Luc Ponty manage to carve out careers on that instrument, and quite successfully so. As Chicago violinist Zach Brock, along with his Coffee Achievers, shows, the violin offers its own potential for excitement and for creating an alternative means for delivering the jazz message beyond the guitar and bass among stringed instruments. In addition, the members of the Coffee Achievers have written eight of their own compositions of varying meters and melodies and moods that nonetheless make effective use of the quartet format that Brock has formed.
Take Brock’s "Common Ground," which sets up the uncommon instrumentation of violin with Sam Bar-Sheshet’s B-3 organ, achieving a funk beat from Matt Wigton’s throbbing bass lines, Nori Tanaka’s clip-clopping drum work, weaving organ lines and shifting meters while Brock improvises above it all, referring not to melodic guides but instead using the harmonic framework as its structure. On the other hand, Wigton’s "Solitary Candle" absolutely glows as Bar-Sheshet streams forward with an eighth-note-based rippling behind Brock’s vibrant development of the theme, luxuriant and suggestive of natural visual images. Brock obviously has the classical training and the jazz sensibility to attain the full potential of the instrument in exploring sonic possibilities, from the violin’s rich conventional sound on the folkloric waltz, "Turn," to plucking the violin strings with a guitar pick in pizzicato fashion on "The Coffee Achievers." Making the performance even more challenging as a way to create dots of sound, connected by implications or modulation and movement, Bar-Sheshet accompanies Brock on "The Coffee Achievers" literally with one hand tied behind his back.
Zach Brock, with twelve years of professional experience in Chicago at an age of but thirty years, is still a rapidly developing talent. As such, he absorbs from all directions from the jazz of Von Freeman, the vocal sense of Kurt Elling and Patricia Barber, the bop of Jodie Christian, the melodic approach to shaping solos of Orbert Davis and even pointers from fellow Chicago violinist, Johnny Frigo. As Zach Brock And The Coffee Achievers
proves, Brock not only has the interest in a wide variety of forms from free improvisation to hints of rural America to twists on the balladic format to jazz jam but also he has the talent to execute them with a personal touch, quirky and yet clearly conceived. His talent consists of apparently effortless technique and boundless energy over rapid changes to shape innovative and entertaining musical approaches.
Zach Brock is a violinist to watch.
And to hear with a sense of discovery and delight.