Building a Better Future
In Zenith are a trio that play avant-garde chamber jazz with a post-punk sensibility. Their songs are tightly constructed and surprisingly never run much longer than 3 to 5 minutes. The group gets their ideas out in a brief amount of time, trimming away any chance of their music turning into free jazz self-indulgence. Led by cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, the trio also features Jeb Bishop on trombone, bass, and guitar, and Michael Zerang on drums. Although the trio calls Chicago its home, their compositions sound distinctly European, and it comes as no surprise that all three members have worked with Peter Brötzmann, longtime member of Germany’s jazz underground.
On the trombone-led “Austin (City of Dreams),” the group sails through some Klezmer-like polka á la the Klezmatics. Bishop gets in some cool, wobbly lines on the trombone, and Zerang brings whistles into the percussive mix, giving the tune a Carnival-like flair. On “Conn and Boo Boo,” Zerang leads the group into a Neal Peart-like stomp with Lonberg-Holm conjuring up some discordant storms on his cello. The tune is chock full of exciting bursts of compact energy and is reminiscent of Jonas Hellborg’s work with Tony Williams and the Soldier String Quartet. Interestingly, the composition, “The Minutemen Look Over Their Shoulders,” is not at all a reference to the influential music group, but appears to be a moving tribute to the soldiers who fought in the American Revolution. It starts out as a stately march full of classical sonorities, and soon turns into a frantic procession full of wonderfully abrasive tones from the cello. The final piece, a traditional Swedish composition, showcases the trio’s most chaotic improvising on the album. While anyone who appreciates new music that is truly new should give In Zenith a listen, fans of the Ex’s collaborations with avant-garde cellist Tom Cora should find their music of particular interest.
Miguel, Postfach 2515, CH-8026 Zurich, http://www.miguelrecordings.com