Christopher Zuar Orchestra – Exuberance (ENG review)

CJZ Music – Street date May 10th 2024
Christopher Zuar Orchestra – Exuberance

Often considered a gifted composer, which is indeed the reality, Christopher Zuar presents us with his second album, a highly inspired work remarkable for its compositions, arrangements, and performers. “Exuberance” is somewhat like a technicolor postcard, as suggested by the magnificent cover art by Anne Beal, instantly evoking grandiose film music, infused with skillful touches of folkloric and jazz inspirations, even hints of scales, all artfully employed by the composer seemingly to delight the listener’s imagination. Zuar’s music has been performed both nationally and internationally by ensembles such as the WDR Big Band (Germany), the Brussels Jazz Orchestra (Belgium), the Danish Radio Big Band (Denmark), and the New York Youth Symphony Jazz, among others. Praised by music critic Raul Da Gama as “prodigiously gifted,” Zuar feels at home writing in a variety of musical styles.

Moreover, this album features artists you may already recognize from Bayou Blue Radio, such as Pete McCann and Sara Caswell, musicians who have already distinguished themselves through their own talents. In contrast to the often-tiresome compositions of this style found in Europe, Zuar skillfully intertwines his classical and jazz influences, mastering the intricate nuances of both musical styles. After five listens to this album, I discover something new each time that catches my ear. Sara Caswell’s remarkable musical feats on the track “Communion” are hard to ignore. I believe Christopher Zuar is poised to become an indispensable composer in the years to come, creating music that can be appreciated by a wide range of audiences.

I also appreciate that the composer did not restrict himself to the typical duration of tracks, as many composers often tailor their music for radio play, compromising its expressive quality. Here, Zuar develops each piece according to the story he wants to tell, and there isn’t a single track on this album to criticize; each one is wonderfully crafted. The title track, “Exuberance,” which lends its name to the album, serves as the finale, with Emma Frank’s voice seamlessly fitting into this project, reminiscent of both a cantatrice and a musical theater performer, accompanied by music that makes us lament the end of the work. One feel compelled to request an encore, so we start the album again from the beginning for the sixth time, rediscovering each track anew. To say that Christopher Zuar is talented is an understatement; some individuals possess that extra something that elicits admiration, and it’s safe to say that this album is “essential.” There’s no need for excessive praise because the quality of the entire work is genuinely praiseworthy, and it’s certain that we will now follow the adventures of this composer with the utmost interest.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, April 28th 2024

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Musicians :

Dave Pietro – Alto/Soprano Saxophone, Piccolo, Flute, Alto Flute
Charles Pillow – Alto/Soprano Saxophone, Flute, Alto Flute, Oboe
Jason Rigby – Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet
Ben Kono – Tenor/Alto Saxophone, Flute, Alto Flute, Clarinet
Carl Maraghi – Baritone Saxophone, Bass Clarinet
Tony Kadleck – Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Jon Owens – Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Scott Wendholt – Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Matt Holman – Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Matt McDonald – Trombone
Mark Patterson – Trombone
Alan Ferber – Trombone
Max Seigel – Bass Trombone
Pete McCann – Electric/Nylon String Guitar, Banjo, Mandolin, Dobro
Glenn Zaleski – Piano, Fender Rhodes
Drew Gress – Bass
Mark Ferber – Drums
Rogerio Boccato – Percussion
Mike Holober – Conductor

Sara Caswell – Violin (Tracks 3 & 4)
Max ZT – Hammered Dulcimer (Track 4)
Joe Brent – Mandolin (Track 4)
Keita Ogawa – Percussion (Track 4)
Emma Frank – Voice (Track 7)

Produced by Christopher Zuar and Anne Beal
Recorded at Sear Sound, New York, NY in Studio C
August 31st, 2018 & August 29th – 30th, 2021
Engineered by Chris Allen
Mixed by Brian Montgomery and Christopher Zuar
Mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound, Edgewater, NJ
Cover Art by Anne Beal
Graphic Design by Denise Burt