Music should create images in the mind of the listener, and the more creative the music, the more compelling the images. Dallas-based pianist/composer/arranger Dave Zoller's latest album fashions images that fall into that fascinating category. This salubrious state of affairs comes about because of the play list and the way the quartet and septet, ably led by Zoller, address it with a happy combination of enthusiasm, knowledge, and technique. Listen to Herbie Nichols' "Love, Gloom, Cash, Love." The performance accents Nichols' incorporation of unusual rhythms with conventional bop. But Zoller manages to create pictures associated with fairy tales, belying the song's title. Zoller's own compositions always deserve attention and can create a variety of visual effects. On his "Wonders of Wonders," Zoller's piano establishes the rhythmic pace as he leads the septet through a swinging session with R&B overtones. It then segues into a ballad trumpet played by Larry Spencer, with Carl Hillman's electric bass as counterpoint, with each member of the group going his way and the piece ending on a dissonant note. It features a saxophone confrontation between Chris McGuire and Ron Jones, which can be best described as choreographed musical freedom. This tune is characteristic of Zoller's compositions: not easily categorized, but always interesting. Completely in character, his "Orinoco" (for which he had some composing assistance) takes on a decidedly classical musical aura. As with his other albums, Zoller has pulled together a stellar group of jazz musicians from the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, and all perform with distinction. Unlike his earlier albums, however, all the music on this CD has been composed by musicians who were piano players first, then composers. In addition to Zoller and Nichols, there are works by Thelonious Monk and Billy Strayhorn. The interpretation of "Chelsea Bridge" is made by the lower-register tenor sax playing of McGuire, recalling the Ben Webster style of the early '40s. Jones' improvising is complemented by the sensitive support he receives from Zoller's piano. This music is at the cutting edge, but it still retains a basic, melodic, image-forming quality that makes it very listenable. All in all, this album is good news from Texas, and is recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan