I thought that I had heard of everyone on the jazz scene, but Fresh Sound Records really pulled one out of left field with these two albums. Don’t beat yourself up for never hearing of composer/arranger Bob Zieff. He’s still alive, but his career in jazz was back in the 50s. Through circumstances described in the intriguing liner notes (some written by the still-alive Zieff himself) his compositions got the attention of Chet Baker, who recorded a bunch of them in various settings in the mid 50s in LA, NYC and Paris. This two disc set includes those cool-toned masterpieces, along with a hip big band lead by Supersax baritone saxist Jack Nimitz along with some artsy chamber jazz and a swinging violin quartet.
Zieff’s composition skills are quite impressive. Clever but never clinical, the pieces presented by violinist Dick Wetmore are bon mots of joy, as “Piece Caprice” and “Pomp” combine gypsy carefree with intellect and aplomb. Anthony Ortega’s Chamber Orchestra boasts artists such as Art Farmer/tp, Dick Hafer/bcl and Ahmed Abdul-Malik for some cerebral swinging on “Four to Four” and a rich “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You.”
Nimitz’s orchestra is also filled with big names such as Oscar Pettiford/b, Don Lamond/dr, Bill Harris/tb Kenny Burrell/g and Chuck Wayne/g and the band sounds glorious as Nimitz fills the room on “Long Ago and Far Away” and the team swings with class on the driving “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise” and a hip “Love Nest.”
The money maker h ere, though is Baker’s various bands, which included Dick Twardzik-Bobby Timmons/p, Jimmy Bond-Ross Savakas/b, Peter Littman/dr and some brass, reeds and strings . Baker sounds inspired on”Mid-Forte” and the who team sizzles in Paris during “Rondette” and “Piece Caprice” whiel Baker’s duo with Bond on “Just Duo” is a sensuous delight. Baker’s chamber group is a bit heady, but works on ”A Minor Benign.” This set is a major find, and I guarantee you’ll be glad you have it.
Drummer Enrique Heredia brings the Baker era of Zieff’s compositions up to date on this recent release. His team of Fredrik Carlquist/ts-cl, Michele Faber/p and Curro Galvez/b swings through these clever charts and songs. Carlquist’s clarinet is warm and woody on the moody “Sad Walk, ” graceful on “Brash” and rich with just Galvez’s bass and hints of Heredia’s tomtoms on “ Just Duo.” With Carlquist on tenor, the team bounces with delight on “Rondette” and “Shiftful” with Heredia popping the clutch into overdrive on the snappy “Mid-Forte.” Music from 3 score years that is fresher than this morning’s baguette.
Fresh Sound Records