Transcend and Triumph
On Transcend & Triumph alto saxophonist Bobby Zankel leads a group that achieves one of the most difficult feats in jazz: it sounds both loose and tight simultaneously. With guitarist Rick Iannacone and drummer Craig McIver, Zankel is complemented perfectly by his fellow Philadelphians, maintaining cohesion while venturing outside of a set song structure. Pieces like "Repaying Debts of Gratitude" shows the band's slippery style as Zankel alternates between mild-mannered free playing and locking in with his bandmates for the melody. Coming from a free tradition (he was once a Cecil Taylor sideman), Zankel's main strength is his surprising ability to compose rewarding pieces that are rich in melody, but that are not simplified into easily identifiable patterns. His intricate, imaginative compositions, matched by his sharp playing, have placed him among the foremost innovators in modern jazz-but only to those few in the know. It's about time that Zankel gets more than the "he's underrecognized" type of recognition, especially when he's making records as good as this one.