Aug 26, 2013
Ego is never an issue for James Zollar. Acknowledged as a “first call” trumpeter, he is more than happy to be known for his stints playing as a sideman with the Count Basie Orchestra, the Duke Ellington Band, Tony Bennett, Marty Ehrlich, clarinetist Don Byron, Latin jazz percussionist Mongo Santamaria, and Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. A fierce straight ahead player, his tone reflects a love of be-bop and Kansas City swing.
Only in the past few years has he stepped out as a leader, and his latest CD, It’s All Good People, shows another side to his personality. Rather than follow along the expected path, he has released an album full of West Coast funk and Brazilian jazz. The result is often a treat. While the “spoken word” songs and vocals are not always where they should be, his playing and that of a strong backing band, pays tribute to the likes of Tower of Power, Sly & the Family Stone and other bands he grooved on as a young man.
I spoke with James about the album, his current tour with the David Murray Big Band (which will take him to the Detroit Jazz Festival on Friday August 30th) and his approach as a sideman and a leader. Podcast 371 is our conversation, featuring musical selections that include:
James Zollar – “Bilhete”, “Año Nuevo” and “The Mo’ Doctor” from It’s All Good People. The first two tracks show off the chops of two of James’ guests – harmonica player Gregoire Maret and guitarist Freddie Bryant. The last shows the band in full funk mode, powered by keyboardist Rick Germanson, guitarist Bryant and bassist Ron Richardson.
Don Byron – “Cotton Club Stomp” from Bug Music: Music Of The Raymond Scott Quintette, John Kirby & His Orchestra, And The Duke Ellington Orchestra. Zollar has worked with the mercurial Don Byron a number of times, and here he is featured on a classic slice of Ellington swing.
Marty Ehrlich's Rites Quartet – “You Can’t Beat the Slanted Cards” from Frog Leg Logic. From straight-ahead to the avant-garde to the orchestra pit of Broadway shows, James is comfortable taking on whatever gig challenges him. Here he is part of an innovative quartet recording from 2011 that includes Ehrlich on alto and soprano sax and flute, Zollar on trumpet, Hank Roberts on cello and Michael Sarin on drums.