There may just be one bright side to the COVID-19 pandemic: It’s given many musicians time to complete projects that were on hold due to other obligations. Flutist Alexander Zonjic is a perfect example. His recording career has long taken a backseat to hosting his own radio and television show and serving as artistic director for a number of concert festivals throughout Michigan. As things have slowed down, he released Playing It Forward, his first album in over 10 years.
The soulful, energetic recording is a testament to the flutist’s longstanding love for Detroit, just like his last two albums Doin’ the D (2009) and Seldom Blues (2004). His passion for the city is evident in his “Motor City Sway,” a groovy, AutoTune-based song that has a strong backbeat. Zonjic tackles a number of well-known covers, including a take on Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” that, according to him, was inspired by Aretha Franklin’s cover of the song on The Late Show with David Letterman. The track shows off a beautiful melody by Zonjic behind vocals from the Detroit-based gospel choir Selected of God.
Zonjic also puts a funky spin on the standard “Nature Boy,” which offers an exhilarating flute solo and kicking rhythm by drummer Gary Novak. Of the originals, the title cut is a fun, spirited tribute to the philanthropic efforts of those who’ve given back during the pandemic. And the bluesy “Night Crawler” nods to renowned keyboardist and producer Bob James, who discovered Zonjic during a gig at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit, which led to a long-term working relationship between the two artists.