Review by Geannine Reid in All About Jazz 10,589 views
On “Moonlight in Vermont,” Zottola’s warm alto captures the spirit of Bird’s unique rhythmic and harmonic lines without cliché imitation or ‘licks.’ Zottola’s playing is full of fresh angles to the bebop language; lagging slightly behind the beat for some phrases, high accented notes are derived from the melody with complex melodic lines underneath, a rhythmic feeling that falls into double time and a high use of chromatic embellishments all without ever losing the sense of swing and melodic continuity. The orchestration is full and supportive of Zottola’s melodic explorations through the harmonies while the backing lines have multiple layers and counterpoints; they never distract the listener from Zottola. Zottola explains, “This album is not a re-creation of anything Charlie Parker did which would be pretentious and silly on my part. Bob Wilber once told me Charlie Parker was the last great swing player and true enough if you listen to his early recordings with Jay McShann, you will hear he is straight out of the Lester Young school. I did many festivals with Jay and spoke to him about Charlie Parker who was in his teens when he played in Jay’s band. Actually there is a Charlie Parker solo where he quotes the entire intro to Louis Armstrong’s ground breaking “West End Blues” from the 1920s, so his roots go back for sure and Charlie Parker was one of the great improvisers of the 20th century along with Louis Armstrong in my opinion. What I would like to pay tribute to is how he “culled together” everything before him, making it work in whatever setting he was in, putting a glorious final stamp on what was the Golden Age of Jazz that started with Louis Armstrong in the 1920s and ended with Parker in 1950 which was the great Renaissance in Jazz that sadly America has still not acknowledged. Most important to me is “Bird’s” aesthetic and beauty in everything he played whether it was fast or slow and that comes from the soul which is so evident in his string album. Just listen to his ground breaking intro on “Just Friends” on his string album, total aesthetic beauty.” Reflections of Charlie Parker is not just slow ballads, Zottola has wisely placed a few mid-tempo swingers in to add tempo variety; “Oh, Lady Be Good!,” “I May Be Wrong,” “What is This Thing Called Love” and “Three Little Words” and he has also chosen to scale down the ensemble to just a quintet. “Oh, Lady Be Good!,” “Embraceable You,” “I May Be Wrong” and “Three Little Words” are presented in a quintet format with Don Abney on piano, Jimmy Raney on guitar, Oscar Pettiford on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums. “What is This Thing Called Love” has Nat Peirce on piano, Barry Galbraith on guitar, Milt Hinton on bass and Osie Johnson on drums. “What is This Thing Called Love” has a wonderful chorus of Zottola and Hinton trading fours and Raney’s guitar solo on “Three Little Words” is a treat to hear (ending the CD on a mid-up tempo swinger). Zottola’s soloing on each track is deeply steeped in the bebop tradition, but highly melodic and always swinging. Zottola speaks further about his thoughts about Parker, “Also, Charlie Parker in many ways took Jazz from the dance hall to the concert hall. The two major influences for me in creating my own jazz style was Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker, the alpha and omega in jazz in my opinion. Miles Davis summarized jazz in two names Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker. If you just listen and get the concept of how Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker approached music as improvisers in a ‘general sense’ it will organically seep into your own style and that is all I did. Basically with this tribute I just wanted to acknowledge Charlie Parker in my own way for pointing the way for all of us.” Reflections of Charlie Parker is highly recommended, you won’t be disappointed on this one! Personnel Glenn Zottola: alto saxophones; Don Abney: piano; Jimmy Raney: guitar; Oscar Pettiford: bass; Kenny Clarke: drums; Nat Pierce: piano; Barry Galbraith: guitar; Milt Hinton: bass; Osie Johnson: drums.