Pete Zimmer trio at Smalls 2/8/18 (by Jeff McGregor)

Pete Zimmer

PERSONNEL: Pete Zimmer (drums), George Garzone (tenor saxophone), Peter Slavov (bass)

SET LIST:  Improvisation #1 (Zimmer, Garzone, Slavov), Peace (Silver), I Love You (Porter), Improvisation #2 (Zimmer, Garzone, Slavov), Billie’s Bounce (Parker)

HIGHLIGHTS:  Garzone’s robust yet sensitive interpretation of “Peace” was captivating.

Pete Zimmer’s association with George Garzone began at the New England Conservatory of Music playing duo in Zimmer’s weekly lessons. During that time, Zimmer would occasionally sub in Garzone’s legendary trio The Fringe. This was an invaluable experience for Zimmer:

Some of the most powerful musical experiences I ever had were playing in between George and John Lockwood when I was 21/22 years old. There was a total feeling of freedom and it was very liberating.

Although they play more tunes and forms than the Fringe, Zimmer’s trio with Garzone and Slavov takes a similar approach:

We generally don’t talk much about the music before we play. We keep it as natural, organic, and as fresh as possible, always listening, interacting, and allowing things to go any direction at any time.

The extended free improvisation that opened the set illustrated this approach. Zimmer began with a hard-swinging up-tempo solo that led into a duo with Garzone firmly in the Coltrane/Jones tradition. Slavov eventually joined with a pulsing bass line that increased the music’s simmering intensity. After a round of trading between Zimmer and Garzone, the music shifted to a loose medium swing. In perfect contrast to his earlier solo, Garzone delivered long, relaxed melodies punctuated by dense Trane-like flourishes. Later in the set, the trio stretched out with another open improvisation. Garzone began with slow, searching pentatonic melodies buoyed by Zimmer’s rolling mallets. Slavov followed with with a dense and earthy solo that reminded me of Jimmy Garrison.

Another important source for Zimmer is Joe Henderson’s Village Vanguard recordings with Ron Carter and Al Foster. As he explained,

Obviously our trio has a different vibe, but their openness and interaction is something to aspire to.

The group’s interpretation of “I Love You” illustrated this connection. Garzone’s solo danced through the form alternating between weaving chromatic lines and Rollins-like motivic development. Slavov and Zimmer explored the space around Garzone’s tenor lines providing both support and dialogue.

The set closed with a spirited interpretation of “Billie’s Bounce.” After a concise statement from Garzone, Slavov dug into a walking solo full of creativity and harmonic nuance. Zimmer followed with an authoritative and hard-swinging solo. While the group maintains many of the familiar traditions of the tenor trio, these conventions never inhibit a sense of freedom and discovery.

— by Jeff McGregor