Turin-born, London-based jazz drummer Enzo Zirilli is a familiar face on the European jazz scene, having worked with numerous European jazz musicians, including the likes of Enrico Pieranunzi, Dado Moroni and Flavio Boltro, as well as touring musicians, such as Randy Brecker, Gary Bartz and Steve Grossman. Now in his fiftieth year, it is surprising to learn that ZiroBop is his first solo recording.
On ZiroBop, Zirilli is joined by the virtuoso Italian guitarist, Alessandro Chiappetta. The two Italian musicians are joined by two rising stars from the UK jazz scene, guitarist Rob Luft and bass player Misha Mullov-Abbado – whose debut solo album we reviewed recently at Kind Of Jazz.
The two-guitar line-up is unusual, and gives the quartet quite a unique sound. It is also clear that this is very much a group, with each of the members providing a least one composition to the album, in addition to one group composition – the improvised One Way Hotel.
ZiroBop is a slightly unusual name for the album, and seems to imply that the listener is in for an old-fashioned slice of be-bop. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! There are bop influences, certainly, with the influence of Thelonious Monk being felt on more than one occasion – but ZiroBop is a more laid back album than the title might suggest. In fact, the name is derived from one of Zirilli’s many nicknames, Ziro, and was originally coined by his old friend, Dado Moroni. As Zirilli mentions in the liner notes, he wanted to make an album that embraced the numerous styles that had influenced him over the years – from Mingus to Miles, Jobim to Zappa, and it was therefore important that he worked with musicians that did not feel confined to a particular label or style.
The album opens with not one, but two false starts. The opening track, Royal Corridor Noise, was recorded at one of the rehearsals for the album at the Royal Academy. As Enzo Zirilli and Rob Luft walked down one of the corridor, towards the bathroom, they heard several musicians playing behind closed doors - a violinist, a pianist, a singer rehearsing with a pianist, a cellist. The effect is not unlike an orchestra tuning up, and only lasts a few seconds. We then hear the band play on Straight No Seven, Enzo’s arrangement of Monk’s Straight No Chaser, on which he just plays the most important accents. Again, the music only lasts a few seconds, before the first proper track begins. The effect is somewhat disarming on first lesson, and it might have been better to include the second snippet as an interlude, rather than the second track.
The first real tune is Cancion Brasilena, a delightful Latin-style composition by Rob Luft, which features a lovely solo by Rob, some subtle support from fellow guitarist Allesandro Chiappetta, and a fine solo by the young bass player, Misha Mullov-Abbado.
Wu-Wey, which was composed by Chiappetta, is less structured, and whilst that allows for more improvisation, the tune itself meanders somewhat, and is less memorable.
Thank You Very Monk, Enzo’s second ‘tribute’ to Monk, is more impressive, driven by a swinging beat from Zirilli, while Jobim’s Olha Maria is one of the most delicate piece on the album, and features some delightful interplay from the two guitarists, who never get in one another’s way.
Vostok 9 is one of my favourite pieces on the album. It was composed by the Italian guitarist Andrea Allione, and was included on the album of the same name, which was released in 2008. Zirilli started his career with Allione, who sadly passed away a couple of years back, and the tune was recorded in his honour. It has elements of prog, and even psychedelic rock as the tune builds to a climax, but don’t let that put you off! It’s a fascinating composition, and it’s easy to see why Zirilli wanted to include this tune.
Personised is another ballad, and was written by Misha Mullov-Abbado, who is becoming a fine composer. Zio Masi, which translates as Uncle Tom, picks up the tempo once more, and has a delightful swing. Zirilli wrote the tune for his uncle, and has tried to capture the spirit of New Orleans with the Sicilian love of music
Maggio Se Ne Va was written by the Italian singer and guitarist, Pino Daniele, who also passed away earlier this year. Whilst it was a popular song, it’s worth noting that the original featured Wayne Shorter on soprano saxophone, so the tune also works well in a jazz context.
ZiroBop sounds like it should be a hard bop album, but is not. And with several tributes on the album, it could be somewhat maudlin, but instead, it comes across as both heartfelt and vibrant. The two-guitar line-up works well, and it will be interesting to see how the music emerges as the band tours in the months ahead. Fifty years was a long time to wait – let’s hope we don’t have to wait so long for the follow-up!