ZMF Trio

Circle The Path
Drip Audio DA21562 (www.dripaudio.com)

Not a north-of-the-49th-parallel variant of the FAB trio despite identical instrumentation and the participation of that band’s bassist, American Joe Fonda, ZMF forges its own identity. That’s because its other members’ influences are vastly different from those of FAB’s jazz-saturated fiddler and drummer.

Vancouver violinist Jesse Zubot brings supple strategies and techniques derived from acoustic folk and ethic music plus his interactions with such free musicians as clarinetist François Houle to Circle The Path, while Toronto drummer Jean Martin’s tranquil accenting owes much to the restraint derived from his stint in the vocal-instrumental combo Chelsea Bridge and duo with vocalist Christine Duncan. Reassuringly, Fonda’s bedrock jazz improvising with FAB’s Billy Bang and Barry Altschul plus his tenure with Anthony Braxton’s ever-changing ensembles foreshadowed the roots and experimental sides of his playing exhibited here.

Upfront, the two string-slingers combine to expose various arco possibilities, while Martin’s beat is sensed more than felt. On “Next Step” for instance, Zubot’s double- and triple-stopping takes on gypsy violin arch and echo, as Fonda somehow transforms the highest pitches of his strings into mandolin-like plucks. Meanwhile the interaction on nine-minute “#135” is reminiscent of the Revolutionary Ensemble’s 1970s cohesion, with the bassist’s thick, sluicing pops, the drummer’s clattering rolls and the violinist channeling Leroy Jenkins. His sharp tremolo lines and chromatic pizzicato output includes distinctive stop-and-start string scratching.

Finally, “Slow Blues” confirms ZMF’s advanced take on the jazz tradition, with Zubot’s stuttering arpeggios and staccato stops extending Fonda’s thumping time-keeping and Martin’s backbeat slaps.

— Ken Waxman

CODA Issue 334