by Ian Mann
November 23, 2006
"Clouds" is pleasant enough listening but Zunigar's own musical personality never really emerges and as a whole the album doesn't quite take off.
The review copy of this album was forwarded to us by that fine Midlands based, Hungarian born bass player Zoltan Dekany. Dating back to 1995 the album was recorded in California and features a core trio of Dekany, drummer Dave Hocker and the leader, Rick Zunigar on guitar.
Apart from Dekany I’ve not encountered any of the album’s other personnel before and assume that they’re all American. At the time of the recording Dekany was based in California. According to the liner notes Zunigar has played with some real jazz heavyweights. The names cited are Chick Corea, Willie Bobo, Freddie Hubbard, Cal Tjader, Elvin Jones, Sarah Vaughan, John Patitucci, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Lee Konitz and others. Distinguished company in anyone’s book. Zunigar has also played in Stevie Wonder’s band.
The material on “Clouds” is mainly written by Zunigar himself. The opening “Rhumboogie” sounds like an outtake from Pat Metheny’s “Bright Size Life” album, even Hocker’s busy, chattering drumming is a dead ringer for Bob Moses playing on that record.
Zunigar begins to find his own voice on the gently swinging “Beth’s Blues”. The rhythm section lay down a seductive groove and help to make this one of the album’s most enjoyable pieces.
Elsewhere the music is a mix of slow, rambling blues and the occasional ballad with the ghost of “Bright Size Life” never far away. Zunigar is certainly a technically proficient jazz guitarist with his tricky, darting runs and he receives solid support from both Hocker, who manages to be both busy and sympathetic, and the dependable Dekany. The bassist solos effectively when required and there are plenty of imaginative drum fills from the inventive Hocker.
On two of the outside compositions Dekany and Hocker are replaced by organist Bill Hyde and drummer Dave Tull. They appear on the standard “You Don’t What Love Is” and the Miles Davis composition “Old Milestones”. The organ provides a welcome variation in pace and tone and Hyde is an adept and bluesy soloist in the best “Jazz Hammond” tradition.
It is a pity that Hyde does not appear throughout the album as this would make for a far more varied and exciting record. As it is “Clouds” is pleasant enough listening but Zunigar’s own musical personality never really emerges and as a whole the album doesn’t quite take off. The use of another front line instrument would help to keep the Metheny trio comparisons at bay and paradoxically give Zunigar someone to bounce off thereby offering more scope for him to express himself. As it is he seems to be caught in the shadow of his influences.blog comments powered by Disqus