ESP-Disk has a long history of documenting avant-garde musicians who never became well-known but deserved exposure nonetheless; drummer James Zitro was one of them. After Zitro performed on alto saxophonist Sonny Simmons' Music from the Spheres session in late 1966, ESP gave him the opportunity to record as a leader -- and the result was the April 1967 date Zitro, which finds the drummer overseeing a sextet that includes Bert Wilson on tenor sax, Warren Gale on trumpet, Michael Cohen on piano, and Bruce Cale on bass. Zitro is best described as a combination of free jazz and modal post-bop, with free jazz clearly having the upper hand. Cohen's five-minute "Sweet," Wilson's 13-minute "Happy Pretty," and Zitro's 22-minute "Freeken" are not exercises in nonstop chaos, but overall, the playing is more outside than inside. One of the album's influences is John Coltrane's early- to mid-'60s quartet, although the playing is much more free-form than Coltrane was during that period; at the same time, Zitro isn't quite as extreme as Om and some of the other scorching albums that Coltrane recorded after officially taking the free jazz plunge in 1965. But Zitro has plenty of intense, fiery moments -- especially during the latter part of "Freeken" -- and the performances emphasize density. Originally released as a vinyl LP, Zitro was reissued on CD in 2008. On the plus side, ESP's CD reissue offers good digital remastering and attractive packaging and art work; unfortunately, there are no liner notes other than a brief two-sentence blurb by Bernard Stollman -- which is problematic because when a musician is as obscure as Zitro (who has done very little recording as a leader), liner notes are needed more than ever. Nonetheless, it is nice to have this 1967 rarity available on CD.
|Label:||Esp Disk Ltd.|