Sunday, February 3, 2019

Jacob Rex Zimmerman

Jacob Rex Zimmerman

As his website explains, Jacob Zimmerman is a sax and clarinet player based in Seattle. He's 32, and he has two records out focusing on jazz as it was played in the 1940s. The earlier one, Recording Ban, refers to the stoppage to commercial recording imposed by union boss James Petrillo, starting in August 1, 1942 and ending in 1943-44 (depending on the record label). The title of his latest record, More of That, sounds like a reference to the previous one, delving as it does in music from around those years.

Revivalism in jazz in a tricky subject, open to all sorts of questions, starting with whether it should be done at all. For the epicurean listener who enjoys the records of that kind of music, the chance to hear it re-recorded or, better still, live, will always be welcome, despite the obvious risk for disappointment, proportional to the listener's familiarity with the originals on record.

Both albums show an understanding of the music from that era, swing to bop, that exceeds expectations. The sound of the horns, the drummers' general playing, the bass lines, the interaction between players... everything is spoken in the language of the era. And this is not mere musical archeology. This music breathes and it's alive. It is played with the sense of inevitability that honest art carries. And it swings.

Recording Ban is exemplar in this sense. It shows the care and study put in this music, regarding both the chronology and choice of pieces. It closes with Charlie Parker's "Koko", signalling the definitive arrival of Bebop, followed by "52nd St. Theme", which Bird used as his theme to bookend his live sets.  At the other end, it opens with "Swing to Bop" (a selection with which I may or may not have something to do), recorded in May 1941 live at Minton's, and it treasures the kind of attention to detail that goes with careful study, like the opening fade-in on the second A of a chorus (just like in the original recording), the riffs, Zimmerman's several quotes from the original, the trumpet's contemporary quote of "Blue Skies" (2:09), the accents played by the piano... 

In the latest edition of "London Calling", my segment for Spanish-language podcast Club de Jazz, we've played two selections from those two records. Zimmerman's website is here, and his music can be tasted and purchased here.

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