Phoenix, the sixth CD by Patrick Zimmerli and his fourth on Songlines, finds the New York-based composer/saxophonist investigating new avenues of expression. The record integrates saxophone and jazz instruments with electronics and strings to create an appealing hybrid sound. It draws on Zimmerli’s wealth of experience in jazz, classical, and electronic/popular and film music. Sonically lush, beautifully recorded, and creatively mixed in 5.0 surround sound, Phoenix offers a varied set of responses to contemporary life that is both aesthetically intriguing and immediately approachable.
Loosely framed by the haunting, panoramic soundscape “M,” Phoenix appeals to music lovers across genres. But jazz fans will appreciate pianist Kevin Hays’ solo on the up-tempo, Latin-flavored “The Bird Dances,” Zimmerli’s extended blowing on “Summer Passes,” and the warm, understated rendition of “How Insensitive.” Electronic-music enthusiasts will groove to the interplay of electronic and acoustic instruments on such pieces as “Away from You,” “Feel,” “Clouds and Machines,” and “Gnosis Crisis.” And tours-de-force such as “Wunderlichen Stadt,” the minimalist-influenced “Only Surround,” and the menacing “Beginning” point in new compositional directions for classical music. Each piece has its own mood and combines its influences in quite different ways, and each is given a passionate and committed performance.
Says Zimmerli: “I would call this my most experimental record to date.…The idea that to be experimental music can’t be appealing sonically, that it has to exist within a narrow tradition of dissonance and heightened expression, is itself long out of date….This record has elements of popular music, a genre I can’t escape from and in any case wouldn’t want to. There’s so much interesting stuff going on in pop music, so many committed people doing things in an idealistic, visionary way. The record partakes of that, and I’d love it if it strikes a chord with people who are into pop as a result. What I’m aiming for, in all these pieces, is a contemporary, aesthetically viable, pan-stylistic art music. That to me is a music that feels good, that is rich and inviting in its sound and harmony, that draws a listener into its emotional journey, but that at the same time doesn’t lapse into predictability, that remains fresh and vital and intellectually alert. It’s such a difficult thing to achieve, that balance between listenability and interest, between tradition and novelty. But it’s the quality that all the very best music from every genre past and present possesses.”
Patrick Zimmerli has garnered the highest recognition for his work in jazz, winning the first annual Thelonious Monk composers’ competition in Washington and the Gil Evans commission from the IAJE, and has put out four CDs of his original music on Songlines and Arabesque. As a classical composer he has written two piano concertos and two piano trios (the latter recently released on Arabesque) and is the composer-in-residence of the Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra. He has also worked in commercial music and film, orchestrating and contributing music to such well-received films as The Deep End. Kevin Hays has worked with the some of the greatest figures in jazz, from Joe Henderson and Sonny Rollins to Eddie Gomez and Joshua Redman. As a leader he has recorded several records for Blue Note. Satoshi Takeishi has worked with a broad variety of internationally renowned artists, from Ray Baretto to Eliane Elias to Anthony Braxton. His duo project with pianist Shoko Nagai, which features live improvised electronics and a visual projection artist, frequently tours Japan and the U.S. Violinist Scott Yoo has served as Assistant Principal Violinist and Assistant Conductor to the Dallas Symphony, and is Music Director of the Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra and the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival.