James Zollar – The Ways in (ENG review)

JZAZ Records – Available
James Zollar – The Ways in

This album is released under the New York label JZAZ Records. When I saw the cover of this album, the face of this trumpeter seemed familiar to me. Indeed, I had already spotted him in Wynton Marsalis and The Lincoln Center group, but I knew very little about him. He started playing the trumpet at the age of 9, obtained his diploma at 12, continued studying in San Diego, and then in 1985, he joined the Cecil McBee Quintet for five years. He has recorded with Tom Harrell, Weldon Erving, and Sam Rivers, and he also appeared in Robert Altman’s film “Kansas City.” He was later included in the Oxford University Press Jazz Encyclopedia in 1999, already a promising career. The musical adventure continues as a soloist with Jon Faddis & Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis and The Lincoln Center, The Count Basie Orchestra, with Diane Schuur, and this prestigious list goes on. If I took the time to give you this description, it is to show you the importance of this musician, so let’s dive into his works that make up the tracklist of this album.
Of course, from the first track, we appreciate the fact that James Zollar maintains a connection with tradition, but it would be too narrow-minded to only see this aspect. By listening carefully, it becomes clear that James Zollar quickly explores other paths, sometimes even ethnic ones. He is a sculptor of sounds, not only in terms of the sounds themselves but also in the structure of the compositions. Just reading the titles of his works allows us to feel the poetry and joy of life they contain, such as “The Fruit,” “Peace-Blue Silver,” and “The Single Petal Of A Rose.” Let us say that his music also emanates an intellectual and poetic approach. James Zollar’s music is not just about aesthetics; there is a peaceful commitment here.
“The Single Petal Of The Rose” is an orchestral form where James Zollar’s inner poetry bounces and transcends. We listen, we admire, and we begin to grasp what constitutes this artist, whose library probably contains more than just musical literature. Here, he is evidently marked by the major ensembles in which he has lent his art—a skill that has been shaped over the years. This admirable orchestral composition, with his voice subtly present, reminds me in many ways of other highly accomplished artists. In James Zollar’s compositions, nothing is there by chance, or just to make it “pretty.” Everything is measured, centered, refined, and harmonized. “Do Nothing ’till You Hear From Me” will undoubtedly make you think of film music. This trumpeter/composer plays with codes and indulges in them for our greatest pleasure. It is impossible to mention all the excellent artists who are on this album. However, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt is present, which gives you an idea of the level of excellence you can expect. And if we particularly love this kind of album, it is for their authenticity, a form of honesty and artistic legitimacy that commands respect and becomes essential in its own right.

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

PARIS-MOVE, February 4th 2024


Album available on all platforms