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HERE FOR YOU NOW, REMIXED IN DVD-AUDIO 5.1 'SURROUND'! A resident of Hermosa Beach, California, a location indelibly etched in the minds of jazz literati as the Mecca of West Coast or "Cool" jazz - an association perhaps forged solely by the iconic Lighthouse and it's sundry "All-Stars" - Ray Zepeda has created an oeuvre that is anything but regionally definable. Moreover, his music has heretofore been, for the most part, anything but "cool" in the sense that the term is commonly applied to characterize the West Coast school. While some comparisons can be drawn between Zepeda's penchant for thoughtful composition and the aesthetic of the cool school which favored complex, logically-derived melodic lines and intricate arrangements over the pure "blowing" session, the listener cannot help but take notice of the markedly aggressive nature of his improvised lines, especially on Stella By Starlight, Step By Step, and Two Weeks' Notice, exhibiting an angularity more akin to the bebop school of 52nd Street and the East Coast hard bop lexicon than to the more singable line playing of sunnier climes. Said affinity notwithstanding, Zepeda's playing is intensely melodic as evidenced by his soulful renderings of Untitled #1, Midland, and Never Will I Marry where the innate beauty of the tune's harmonic underpinning is brought to the foreground by his compelling lyricism and where every note is imbued with his highly personal signature without ever crossing the line of affectation or artifice. Contrast this with his wholly experimental and unabashedly visceral version of Body and Soul - a veritable tour de force in extended techniques from his capacious reservoir of timbral resources - and one must conclude that Zepeda is a master for whom the saxophone is but a transparent vehicle through which he can speak with clarity whatever he hears and feels in the moment directly to his audience in a way they find emotionally impactful and intellectually engaging. While Zepeda's arrangement of Stella By Starlight falls along traditional lines, it provides a perfect showcase for Rich Eames's sinewy piano lines and Joe La Barbera's spirited and crisp drumming during the exchange of eights with Zepeda and Eames. Zepeda's title cut, Step By Step, by contrast, is a work of daunting complexity, the intricate inner workings of which all relate in some way to various melodic, intervallic, and harmonic elements of John Coltrane's Giant Steps where excerpts from Coltrane's melody are sometimes even presented in retrograde or inversion. While this would not be apparent at the beginning to most listeners without the benefit of detailed analysis of the score's minutiae, step by step the piece does gradually become more and more like it's model (hence the title) until the solo section is reached at which point it becomes obvious and things start to really burn. Zepeda, Eames, and Oles offer up masterful solos, effortlessly executed, even at this brisk tempo, over some of the most difficult changes in the jazz repertoire. La Barbera is flawless throughout this cut, driving it's forward momentum at every juncture. Zepeda's Untitled #1, his arrangement of Frank Loesser's Never Will I Marry, and his version of Midland by Grammy-winning composer and pianist, Billy Childs, are all perhaps a tip of the hat to what he calls the "ECM school" after Manfred Eicher's label known for producing jazz albums that are more contemplative in nature. While Zepeda's melodic sensibilities and heartwarming and resonant tone shine brightly throughout, Eames too effectively captures the whole ECM vibe especially in his Keith Jarrett-like gospel-influenced interpretation of Never Will I Marry. While there is historic precedent for doing so (i.e., Billy Boy on Miles Davis's Milestones album), Zepeda's inclusion of his You Haven't Changed sans composer /leader may seem a curious choice but not when you consider that he has Bill Evans's old drummer, Joe La Barbera, in the group. Eames is nothing short of brilliant here, clearly evoking Evans with the sympathetic interplay with La Barb
UPC Number: 136000805650
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