2018 Release 11/10/18 Voted ARIA Jazz Album of the Year 2018!
Jonathan Zwartz's exceptional albums 'The Sea' and 'The Remembering and Forgetting of the Air' were (still are) two of the best selling albums in Birdland.
Now, after a four year break, Jonathan Zwartz returns, again bringing together some of the finest musicians in Australia for his third album "Animarum".
Barney McAll, Julien Wilson, Phil Slater, James Greening, Richard Magraith, Steve Magnusson, Hamish Stewart and Fabian Hevia caress the melodies and swing the grooves on the eight new Zwartz originals.
A future 'Favourite' has arrived.
Australian Review 3/2/18 4.5 Stars:
When one of Australia’s finest double-bassists issues a new album under his leadership, containing eight of his original compositions, some might expect a showcase of his technical skills on the instrument. In the case of Sydney’s Jonathan Zwartz, those skills are on display on Animarum, yet they are found not in solo virtuosity but in deeply considered bass lines as part of the overall ensemble. In fact, Zwartz features himself only once — in the title track — and that is a modest effort, subsumed into the surrounding soundscape.
The focus here is on the collaborative skills of nine superb musicians, a contrast to the rather empty virtuosity that characterises much contemporary jazz. The compositions that dominate the album are slow-moving but hypnotic. They are so spacious, with many sustained notes underpinned by lovely harmonic progressions, that Zwartz seems to be asking the listener to pause and reflect, before he moves on to another musical idea. It would be misleading to say that the writing is sparse, but it is the opposite of busy. The reflective mood is established in the opening track, Someday, with Barney McAll’s gospeltinged solo piano introduction, before the entry of Zwartz, Steve Magnusson (guitar), Hamish Stuart (drums) and Fabian Hevia (percussion).
The members of this brilliant rhythm section are completely at home with each other, playing gently and always within themselves. When the four-piece horn section enters, this inspired piece, with majestic chord changes, builds into a stirring anthem culminating in a ruminative solo from Magnusson. This is music that makes you feel glad you’re alive. While Animarum is not about machismo-style virtuosity, there is a deeper, more meaningful virtuosity in the instrumental solos liberated by Zwartz’s disarmingly pleasant writing. Julien Wilson shows in his solos throughout a mastery of the expressive possibilities of the tenor saxophone: choked or fluttered notes and glissandos at the top of the instrument’s range; breathy, full-rounded notes in the bottom register, and a mellifluous capacity to create solos of melodic beauty.
In the tune Zwartz has titled Julien Wilson’s Sound of Love, Wilson plays one of the great tenor solos. The trombonist James Greening, playing softly and close to the microphone in Milton and Seahorse, has rarely sounded more intimate and mellow. Phil Slater’s improvisations on Milton and Emily are so perfectly formed that one can appreciate why Paul Grabowsky considers Slater one of the most important trumpeters in the world today. The remaining frontline player, Richard Maegraith (saxophones, bass clarinet), does not solo. Other than Wilson, the key performer on the album is the extraordinary McAll, who is in many ways the power behind the throne. His bright, creative piano fills and solos enliven Zwartz’s compositions throughout. There is something deeper than usual happening here: this beautiful album seems to me to be the musical expression of a life worth living.
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