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Patrick Zimmerli: Phoenix

Patrick Zimmerli is an able soprano saxophonist who improvises a little and composes a lot. What improvisation there is here seems as preconceived as the meticulously composed, classical/New Age/drum ‘n’ bass/ jazz hybrids that comprise this album. That’s not a crime, but the bulk of this music is so tightly composed and arranged that I find myself wishing for a little more anything-goes blowing. It happens in spots-percussionist Satoshi Takeishi gets hot in places-but not enough to offset a prevailing air of caution.

That said, Zimmerli is obviously first and last a skillful composer. Much of this music (for soprano sax, string quartet, piano, bass and percussion/programming) combines Reich-ian minimalism and other classical techniques with quasi-smooth jazz and New Age rhythmic concepts. Although Zimmerli’s writing for strings is far above and beyond what is typical for a “jazz” composer, some of the music has a certain “Bird With Strings” kind of treacle-for example, a version of Jobim’s “How Insensitive.” Better are tracks like “Beginning,” wherein Zimmerli embraces looser rhythmic and harmonic structures, treating the strings less as a foil for the soprano’s lead and more as an equal partner within the collective. Zimmerli’s stuff is well crafted and not unattractive-ambitious if not particularly challenging.

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