BY MARTIN KASDAN JR.
(Editor’s note: What follows is a review of Zach Brock’s live performance at the Jazz Factory in December. Brock returns to the venue this weekend.)
The winter holidays always seem to be a special time, with family reunions and festive activities. So it was for the Louisville jazz community when Zach Brock ended the New Year’s festivities with a performance at the Jazz Factory.
Brock is originally from Lexington and now lives in New York after several years of honing his skills in Chicago. He returns with his band The Coffee Achievers to the Jazz Factory this Friday and Saturday night, when he’ll record a live album.
Brock joined friends Craig Wagner on guitar, Chris Fitzgerald on bass and Jason Tiemann on drums for two nights, with pianist/accordionist Todd Hildreth rounding out the group for its second night, which I caught. They began with a fast and funky Brock original, “Resisting the Beast.”
A composition by Wagner, “Note to Self,” was next, which began as a guitar, bass and drums trio, modulated into a bass-violin duet, expanded to include the other players, and then transformed into a piano trio.
Keith Jarrett’s catchy, almost Vince Guaraldi-sounding “The Windup” was next. Opening with an ensemble performance of the theme, the song turned into another showcase for Brock’s friends, beginning with Hildreth soloing, then Fitzgerald and Tiemann moving into free territory, after which Wagner’s guitar was accompanied by Tiemann’s inventive use of hand and brush, with Brock offering pizzicato accents.
Fitzgerald’s eloquent and heartfelt “Morning Prayer” provided a change of pace. On “City of Spring,” by the late Polish violinist Zbigniew Seifert, Brock paid tribute to an underappreciated artist who died too soon.
The second set opened with another Fitzgerald piece, “Fifth Business,” which found Hildreth in a Tyner-ish mood. “Home is Not a House” featured Hildreth’s accordion on this new piece by Brock, which has elements of modern classical composition as well as jazz overtones.
Hildreth remained on accordion for a song from the classic film “Black Orpheus,” during which Tiemann showed his versatility by turning from sticks and brushes to hand percussion; Wagner played an almost Flamenco introduction to the piece, and then in a solo that picked up where Brock left off and earned the first spontaneous (i.e., not at solo’s end) applause of the night. Hildreth returned to piano for “Wishing,” a beautiful duet with Brock.
The closing number, “Those Were the Days,” the theme from “All in the Family,” brought smiles to many, as did Brock’s solo eliciting the second round of spontaneous applause.
Throughout both sets, the leader’s generosity in sharing solo space and compositional spotlights with his fellow musicians was most impressive.
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