Certain elements of the Boston improvisatory music establishment haven't much positive to say for the local Berklee School of Music, but Abby Aronson Zocher and Norm Zocher's A&N Group, both guitar teachers at said school, should do to right that unfair impression.
Albert Ayler fans needn't apply; like the Pat Metheny Group the Abbys and Norms prefer highly structured, resolved melodies with detailed sub-themes and a generally reflective, cheerful air. Bevan Manson's piano drives the band as much as the guitars and rhythm section (see the fine "Canadian Suite"), no mean feat since he reins in the notes and only plays the absolutely necessary ones. Abby takes the mike for a dreamy "My Funny Valentine" (never heard it done with such "float" before. Neat). Norm Zocher's "Miles" has a Joni Mitchell ambience to it, saxophonist George Garzone exploring the atmospherically bluesy theme after Zocher does, but the following change-up "Caramel" reminds us again of Abby's Diana Krall-like alto.
Very nice, especially Abby scatting along with an electric bass in the bridge.
The A&N Group are arrangers first; note Garzone's one contribution "Fox In The Woods," where voice and saxophone twin up for a melodic romp over Brooke Sofferman's highly fluent Elvin Jones- reminiscent snare and tom rolls. Once Abby steps out for a run to the water fountain Garzone works some new colors into a Coleman Hawkins-like tapestry. A fine confluence of motifs, and worth a serious listen.
by Ken Egbert
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