Long a sideman, trumpeter James Zollar bounced around a number of jazz styles over the years, and dabbled in various pop musics along the way to boot. On Zollar Systems, he takes a crack at combining a number of those elements into a single set. The album opens in the territory of a Sonny Rollins composition, showing off Zollar's trumpet right where a sax should go (and including a fine sax contribution from Stacy Dillard). There's more exploratory jazz with Rick Germanson's able piano in "The Nearness of You," and a vocal set (from Zollar's wife, Naboko Kiryu) on "Take the Subway Home" that's at once disturbingly flat and intentional -- not unlike Kyoko's vocals in Yoko Kanno's works, but not fitting with the more straightforward jazz that she's in front of. When she's in a Brazilian mode (as in her own "Go-En"), the result is vastly greater. Soon after, however, the band is back in form, jumping through bop hoops and melding together in a vastly more satisfying way. When this band is on its most appropriate material -- straightforward bop and post-bop, horns blazing and piano twinkling -- it's a serious jazz force to be reckoned with. When Zollar and company try to go too far outside of their box, however, the result is far less. Luckily for the listener, they don't diverge too much.
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AllMusic Review by Adam Greenberg