(Tippin’ Records – 2004)
by Paula Edelstein
Common Man marks the recording debut of Pete Zimmer on which he takes his place as a member of the small but select group of straight ahead jazz drummers/leaders. Following in the tradition of Art Blakey, Max Roach, Art Taylor and Roy Haynes, Zimmer leads a hard bop quintet that features Michael Rodriquez on trumpet, Joel Frahm on tenor sax, Toru Dodod on piano, Rick Germanson on piano and John Sullivan on bass. The set opens the Zimmer’s “Search,” a song with an Afro-Cuban rhythm and a melodic line suggestive of the Juan Tizol-Duke Ellington classic “Caravan.”
Joel Frahm’s tenor sax is on fire and the improvisations, phrasings and chord changes that Rick Germanson chooses to comp the ensemble are exceptional. “Road Taken,” is a ballad that utilizes the chord changes of Wayne Shorter’s “Speak No Evil” and its sophisticated harmonic structure evoked by John Sullivan’s bowed bass is both dreamy and melancholy. Micheal Rodriquez’s trumpet solo conjures up memories of Roy Hargrove’s splendid way with ballads and certainly speaks to his musical growth honed with the likes of Eric Reed’s group.
“Common Man,” is a set in the true hard bop style with the head based on the chord changes of Cedar Walton’s “Mode For Joe.” Zimmer is burning on “Hustlin'” and riding the cymbals ala Roy Haynes. This is a blowing vehicle for the band and they make good use of their solos with every soloist stepping up to demonstrate their creative improvisations. This is great hard bop jazz in every sense of the word blowin’, burnin’ and boppin.’