Alexander Zonjic – Doin’ The D

Alexander Zonjic
Doin’ The D
Heads Up – 2009

It isn’t hard to see why some jazz listeners might approach this release with a little bit of trepidation.. Alexander Zonjic is a smooth jazz artist, and one of the musicians featured on this release is the saxophonist so many jazz musicians love to hate: Kenny G.  Fear not, the album also features guest appearances by trumpeter Rick Braun, Special EFX guitarist Chieli Minucci, vocalist Maysa Leak, Brian Bromberg on acoustic bass and many others. In addition to the many new faces, longtime collaborators Jeff Lorber and Bob James make substantial contributions to Doin’ The D.

Lorber’s presence is definitely a plus, and groove-oriented tunes like “Tourista,” “Good as Goldie,” and “Tongue Twister” (all of which Lorber composed and co-produced with Zonjic) balance commercial and artistic considerations. As a flutist, Zonjic has a long history of fluctuating between the funkiness of Herbie Mann and Hubert Laws on one hand and the blandness that has often plagued Tim Weisberg on the other. Lorber seems to bring out a bit more of the Mann/Laws side of things on the tunes that he contributes to.

“It’s always interesting when a new record starts coming together,” says Zonjic. “I basically throw an invitation out to all my music buddies and wonder how many of them will come to the party. I was completely surprised and pleased with the number of people who participated in this record, including some people with whom I’d never recorded with before. While they are all friends of mine, I’m still also a huge fan of these great artists, and I’d like to think that they took part in this project because they respect and admire my music.”

Doin’ The D takes its title from a catchphrase that’s common to residents of the greater Detroit area. To “do the D” is to spend an evening or a weekend checking out the various cultural attractions offered by a city rich with musical history and cultural diversity.

“Detroit and its people embraced me on a profound level many, many years ago, and they’re the main reason that I’ve had such a great career,” says Zonjic. “It’s one of the greatest music cities in the world. All you need to do is consider that Aretha Franklin still lives here after so many years. Eminem is here, Bob Seger is here, Mitch Ryder is here, Anita Baker, Kid Rock, and the list goes on. Obviously, the city is going through its share of tough times right now – like so many other cities. But I continue to appreciate everything “The D” has done for my career, and I will always support it.”

Doin’ the D is more than just a star-studded nod to Zonjic’s adopted hometown. In a larger sense, it’s part of his ongoing effort to carry the torch passed on to him by figures like Canadian jazz flutist Moe Kaufmann and jazz innovator Herbie Mann – and to perhaps even be the messenger who takes the flute to a place of higher prominence as a voice in the smooth & pop-jazz idiom.

“In the classical world, the flute has a huge stature, but it has struggled in recent years to be considered a solo jazz instrument on the same level as the saxophone or guitar and piano,” Zonjic says. “The instrument suffers from this weird stereotype that it’s somehow lightweight – something relegated to playing bird sounds in an orchestra setting. But anyone who hears this record will know that the flute is capable of delivering strong melodies and strong solos. In the right hands, the flute is a musical force to be reckoned with.”