Glenn Zottola Charlie Parker with Strings Revisited Review by Nick Mondello
Musical genius has little regard for boundaries, whether those limits are stylistic, tempo, ensemble format, or, in this example, historical precedent. Expanding on that hypothesis, when an artist such as Glenn Zottola steps into the impossible-to-wear musical Florsheims of Charlie Parker, as he does so effortlessly here, he risks everything in a zero-sum game of musical Russian roulette. The emulation is a Herculean task, a pas de deux with the Devil fraught with musical and possible critical peril. Here, Zottola, a multi-instrumentalist and musical savant if there ever was one, places himself in a musical Lion’s Den and performs his personal stylistic renderings of Parker’s classic string sessions of 1949 and 1950. The result is a portrait of both Parker’s enormous abilities and impact on jazz to this day and also Zottola’s incredible ability to perform brilliantly at such a level of precision and artistry. The recording features Zottola playing nine cuts from Bird’s epic Mercury Records sessions along with impeccable orchestral transcriptions of the original Jimmy Carroll and Joe Lipman arrangements. If that weren’t enough of a feat, Zottola plays here entirely by ear and sans sheet music. Shrewdly, Zottola does not “cop” Parker’s original improvisations. He doesn’t have to. His interpretations are musically rich, inventive and, while they shade Parker’s style and technique, they are obviously not an attempt to play Bird’s licks. One gets the immediate impression that Zottola could do that if he foolishly so desired. He’s that good getting around the horn. There’s a very famous photograph, a close-up of Bird’s fingers gingerly grasping his alto in an almost amorous manner as his musical magic poured out. I’d bet the house that Glenn Zottola probably holds his axe in a similar way since the result here is the same.