Jazz CD Reviews
Zubatto Syndicate – Zubatto Syndicate – Boscology
Published on June 21, 2011
Zubatto Syndicate – Zubatto Syndicate – Boscology BOS-ZS-001, 72:00 ***1/2:
(Byron Vannoy – drums; Mark Taylor – alto saxophone; Greg Sinibaldi – bass clarinet, tenor saxophone; Francine Peterson – bassoon; Chad McCullough – trumpet; David Marriott, Jr. – trombone; Janet Putnam – oboe, English horn; Mack Grout – keyboards; Jim DeJoie – baritone saxophone; Tim Carey – bass; Jesse Canterbury – clarinet; Andrew Boscardin – guitar, producer; Ernesto Pediangco – percussion (tracks 2 & 8))
The self-titled debut by Seattle’s large jazz ensemble, The Zubatto Syndicate, proves that big band jazz can be as modern and daring as anything carved out by a smaller jazz combo and follows in the tradition of Gil Evans, the Carla Bley Big Band or some of Frank Zappa’s oeuvre. Under the direction of composer/guitarist Andrew “Bosco” Boscardin, The Zubatto Syndicate creates a compelling modus operandi which draws variously from rock, hip-hop, funk, soul, Brazilian music and mixes acoustic instrumentation – woodwinds are an important portion of the band’s tone – with electric instrumentation which includes Fender Rhodes, electric bass and guitar. Despite a 12-member core, there is trimmed efficiency and looseness on most tracks so the group often seems smaller than it is.
The Zubatto Syndicate crashes open with the appropriately named “An Arrival,” with a spacey intro that has dissonance and science fiction (or SF)-tinted electronics. The flared guitar is upfront, the horn section hustles along and the rhythm section flexes with certainty. The boisterous beginning points toward the unrestricted nature and SF allusions which permeate other pieces.
Groove is everywhere. “Saturn 9 (Z9)” has a curious samba rhythm which is Brazilian by way of outer space, unrecognizable to actual samba aficionados but which generates a joyful flavor via an infectious bass line, a soulful Fender Rhodes solo, a woodwind melody and Ernesto Pediangco’s underlying percussion. The tune is meant as an homage to the Brazilian cuíca, a popular Brazilian drum utilized in jazz and pop music. “The Green Boy from Hurrah (Z2)” is also based on a samba rhythm and uses a coolly defined groove, repeating motifs and a catchy melody. Drummer Byron Vannoy starts with a solo intro and trumpeter Chad McCullough and tenor saxophonist Greg Sinibaldi later produce appreciative solo moments. SF fans can look up the title for the extraterrestrial reference.
A heavy metal influence rears its sweaty head during the alien takeover number “Mechas Over Manhattan (Z1),” which probably goes over really well in the rock clubs The Zubatto Syndicate has performed in. The fuzzy electric guitar runs roughshod over a 12-bar blues beat, Vannoy displays drum kit chops which Metallica enthusiasts could appreciate and Sinibaldi turns his tenor sax into a formidable weapon. The closing “Lords and Ladies of Venus (Z8)” is similar in approach and has a satirically exaggerated theatricality which harbors hints of hard rock, progressive rock and metal and which suggests Zappa or Jaco Pastorius’ punk jazz. The Brecker Brothers may have coined the term heavy metal be-bop, but The Zubatto Syndicate makes the expression a whomping reality.
No matter the inspirations, though, this is a jazz outing first and foremost. The lengthy “The Trouble with Earth Women (Z14)” – the most traditional jazz composition – has a lovely arrangement with a blues line played by Sinibaldi’s bass clarinet and then Francine Peterson’s bassoon: she really swings the lively melody. Baritone saxophonist Jim DeJoie and McCullough also add enthused solos. Literally everyone gets a chance to showcase their talents on the round robin, mid-tempo number “The Zubatto Song,” so-called simply because each Zubatto artist has the opportunity to step up into the spotlight.
1. An Arrival (Z27)
2. Saturn 9 (Z9)
3. The Trouble with Earth Women (Z14)
4. Inspector Automaton (Z7)
5. Green Boy of Hurrah (Z2)
6. Mechas Over Manhattan (Z1)
7. The Abyssal Jungle (Z35)
8. Ares and Gaea (Z29)
9. A Brief History of Time Travel (Z30)
10. The Zubatto Song (Z36)
11. Lords and Ladies of Venus (Z8)
— Doug Simpson