Review: By Steve Arloff Music Web International September 2018
WCS 101 River of January
Dave Zinno Unisphere

This disc is magnificent from the get go with a palpably infectious track by leader, bassist Dave Zinno himself, Babycakes. The same can be said for Paul Nagel’s Remember When which showcases Mike Tucker’s blistering facility on his chosen horn, the tenor sax. Feira Hippie is one of Tucker’s 3 compositions on the disc and underlines the connection with Argentina where he met Dave Zinno and his own previous collaborator, Rio born pianist Leo Genovese. Add drummer Rafael Barata and the mix is an irresistible and homogenously integrated group of musicians who clearly love performing together and who really listen to each other to ensure each track is as good as it can possibly be. Tucker’s second contribution, another Argentinian inspired track Inverno Sem Rio is one more that has his gorgeously measured playing illuminating every moment. Zinno’s Argentinian niece gives his Little Lilli a way of expressing his love for the child in a lovely and long (almost 11 minute) paean with soaring sax, intelligent pianism and superbly supportive rhythm section by Dave and Rafael. Lilli obviously was at an age when she raced around as all kids do at around the age of 2 as you can hear her doing it courtesy of the writing and musicianship of the quartet’s members.

With Recife Blues we move across to Brazil for inspiration with a piece by Brazilian trumpeter Claudio Roditi though there’s little in the way of blues treatment in the fast and furious delivery here; it must have been one on those times when “I woke up this morning feeling GREAT!”

With Wichita Lineman we have a chance to catch our breath with this beautiful tune that is so gentle with Mike Tucker’s dreamy sax leading us in then handing over to an equally thoughtful and reflective piano from Leo Genovese returning to Mike and then Dave’s bass underlines the relaxed nature of this piece along with Rafael’s oh so caressing drums. Dave takes the tune back half way in with some really gorgeous playing and the tune finishes with Mike rounding off as he began making the experience a superb example of soporific music but don’t let yourself nod right off or you’ll miss a perfect example of cool jazz in the best sense of the phrase.

We enter a different area with the last three tracks since the quartet is joined by Eric “Benny” Bloom whose punctuating trumpet introduces a new element to the process and Mike Tucker’s South End Blues a perfect vehicle to begin it with; I thought that I knew the tune but can’t have but that goes to show how good it is, or it does to me.

With Rapanui we enter ‘experimental’ territory, courtesy of Leo Genovese so don’t expect a tune you can whistle later.

The disc ends with a rip roaring reworking by Mike Tucker of a piece by Brazilian Alfredo da Rocha Viana, Jr., better known as Pixinguinha and it is a fitting end to a great disc with all five members of the band delivering a fun, exciting piece brilliantly.

If you like your jazz uncomplicated with whistleable tunes (apart from track 9) then you’ll love this celebration of great tunes marvellously played and I can’t recommend it more highly.

Review: By Doug Simpson Audiophile Audition April 2018
WCS 101 River of January
Dave Zinno Unisphere

t makes sense bassist Dave Zinno named his group Dave Zinno Unisphere. The Unisphere is a spherical stainless-steel representation of the Earth created for the 1964 New York World’s Fair dedicated to “Man’s Achievements on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe.” Zinno uses many facets of jazz including a large dose of Latin jazz, jazz arrangements of pop material and straightforward jazz. He utilizes them all on his latest ten-track outing, River of January.

Zinno—a faculty member at the University of Rhode Island—has previously backed vocalist Dianne Schuur and has performed with Jimmy Cobb, Junior Cook, Jimmy Heath, John Hicks, John Medeski and others. He’s spent much time in Brazil and has extensively studied Latin jazz. Zinno’s band also has tenor saxophonist Mike Tucker. Tucker leads his own ensemble and has supported Esperanza Spaulding, Joe Lovano, George Duke and more. Argentinian Leo Genovese takes the piano seat (he also adds melodica). Genovese has recorded with Spaulding, Oscar Feldman and several Latin American artists. Brazilian Rafael Barata does the drumming and has wide-ranging credits in Brazilian music. New Orleans-based trumpeter Eric “Benny” Bloom (originally from Rhode Island) guests on three cuts. His eclectic background includes rappers such as Redman and Method Man; jazz artists like Mark Whitfield and Christian McBride; and rock musicians such as Govt Mule and Derek Trucks.

Dave Zinno

The 68-minute album has some quiet moments but overall this is a swinging collection of compositions: two by Zinno; three by Tucker; one by Genovese; and covers of pianist Paul Nagel, pop songwriter Jimmy Webb and two Brazilian tunes. The basic quartet open with “Babycakes,” Zinno’s musical ode to his beloved Carolina. Barata’s up-ticking cadence, Zinno’s sonorous bass lines and Genovese’s blues-laced piano are all wonderful. Tucker’s improvising has some interesting time shifts and an exploratory approach but he never steps too far beyond what draws in listeners. The lengthiest piece—Zinno’s 10:53 “Little Lili”—is a portrait of Zinno’s Brazilian niece. “Little Lili” begins with a smoldering mannerism and gradually builds as Barata, Genovese and Zinno heighten the rhythmic attributes. There are some serious improvisational sections during “Little Lili” which bear close inspection. Tucker’s numbers are also people-oriented. “Feira Hippie” was inspired by Rio de Janeiro’s weekend craft fair held in Ipanema. Zinno states in the CD liner notes, “At some fairs…there is a Chorinho, a jam session where masters and students play side by side. It’s music as community.” Certainly, this upbeat, seven-minute number exemplifies this concept of musicians getting together and letting things become exciting and memorable. Tucker’s economical and sensitive ballad “Inverno Sem Rio” (translated as “Winter without River”) has a modern ambiance with distinguished harmonic interplay. Tucker’s thematically notable “South End Blues” introduces Bloom, who is probably best recognized for his membership in NOLA’s funk band Lettuce. Those who only know Bloom’s funk side might be surprised by his tonality and sound, which echoes Freddie Hubbard’s melodic quality.

Bloom also is heard on the closing cuts. First there is Genovese’s moody, atmospheric “Rapanui,” an otherworldly piece penned in homage to the inhabitants of Easter Island, whose ancestors produced the enigmatic, giant sculptures called Moai. During “Rapanui” Zinno switches to arco bass while Tucker and Bloom generate sometimes whispery and breathy intonations and Barata supplies swishing percussive effects. The record concludes on a zippy crescendo with revered Brazilian composer Pixinguinha’s “Um a Zero” (English: “One to Zero”). Zinno reworks “Um a Zero” into a boisterous, confirmatory contemporary samba. The other two covers are not to be missed. The quartet does justice to Claudio Roditi’s “Recife Blues,” titled after the northeastern Brazilian city. This thoroughly pleasing Latin jazz cut has both Baião and Forró rhythms. Genovese does double duty on “Recife Blues,” supplementing his driving piano with melodica. And then there’s Webb’s symbolic “Wichita Lineman,” a major pop hit for Glen Campbell and redone by everyone from REM to Sergio Mendes. Zinno and his foursome maintain an elegant expression throughout this 6:49 interpretation. Zinno, Tucker, Genovese and Barata sustain a sense of loneliness all too common for touring musicians who must leave family, friends and loved ones. If you missed River of January when it came out in late 2017, give it a spin.

Review: By Wisconsin Bookwatch November 2017
WCS 101 River of January
Dave Zinno Unisphere

River of January is a Latin jazz album that adventures off the beaten path, sweeping the listener away in a stellar journey. Lively and exciting, the songs rouse the listener's spirit and showcase the performers' talents for creativity and improvisation. Highly recommended

Review: By Chris Spector, Midwest Record November 2017
WCS 101 River of January
Dave Zinno Unisphere

DAVE ZINNO UNISPHERE/River of January: This is a vastly different set from the kind from back in the day when jazzbos first discovered world beat and began to incorporate it. Zinno charts a course to a new world with players that can maneuver it with their eyes closed. Tasty jazz at the core throughout, this is a side of serious adult sitting down listening that really makes the time fly. Lusciously played throughout, this crew defines another facet of the sound of summer.