Jae Sinnett ‘Zero to 60’ (J-Nett) 5/5

jae-sinnett“Zero to 60” is drummer/composer Jae Sinnett’s 14th recording as a band leader, one which marks a stunning return to straight-ahead jazz in the classic quartet setting of sax, piano, bass and drums. This album not only swings like hell, it’s filled with such incredible musicianship one just has to sit back and marvel at the skill of the performers involved. It’s exciting, brilliantly written and so full of energy and verve you can’t help but want to hold it up and shout; this is how it should be done! Joining Sinnett on drums are saxophonist Ralph Bowen, pianist Allen Farnham and bassist Hans Glawischnig. Each is an accomplished band leader, in-demand sideman, and all are tremendously respected by their contemporaries. On listening to this album, one doesn’t need to ask why. Whilst the complexities of the music on “Zero to 60” present each musician unique harmonic, melodic and rhythmic challenges, the simple fact is that the listener can walk away feeling totally satisfied, not only fully content with what has been heard, but humming a tune with glee. That’s the beauty of Sinnett’s writing. The compositions are clever in a jazz writing sense, but they’re just so tuneful, catchy even. Add to that the incomparable performances from each member of the quartet and what we have is an awesome album of straight-ahead jazz at its very best and most rewarding.

Every track on “Zero to 60” stands out, there are no weak links here. Passionate, driving grooves, inventive soloing and fiercely enigmatic performances make for a wonderfully dynamic album. The writing never resorts to cliche, the whole album being full of a spirit that sets its apart from the vast majority of recordings one might hear in this field of music; refreshingly authentic and oozing class. As “Double Dribble” opens the session, with its immediately engaging intro, the listener is drawn completely in. By the time the 2nd track “Farm Hands” begins, it’s blindingly obvious we’re in for a masterclass of writing and performing from this wonderful quartet. Saxophonist Bowen is clearly a consummate, seasoned musician, his touch, feel and virtuosity apparently knowing no bounds. This is perhaps best exemplified on “Quail Creek”, the longest, and for me, one of the stand-out tracks of the album. There is so much depth and variation to his playing. Add this to the lovely tone he employs, and it all adds up to top marks in my book. I can’t express enough the skill of Sinnett’s writing though. Just talking about the two tunes mentioned thus far are perfect examples of a master at work. Take for example the change of pace on the last few bars of “Farm Hands”, or the melodic beauty of the chord changes on “Quail Creek”; simply stunning. There’s such invention throughout the album it can’t help but put a smile on your face. “Hans Up!” is one of those tunes you think you must’ve heard somewhere before. A great example of how to make the unfamiliar sound familiar. The swinging “Watch Your Step” gives way to the subtleties of the ever youthful “Never Let Me Go”, with its warmth and classic standard elegance. The tempo rises to fever pitch on the effervescent “Bowen’s Arrow”. The saxophonist is on fire, burning up this tune, smokin’ Brecker-esque in style, with the killer rhythm section holding everything down and then exchanging musical glances before driving on once more. “Whispering Souls” is a more reflective piece, not quite a ballad per-se, with a lovingly crafted solo from Bowen, warming the heart. Pianist Farnham has a touch and feel that works so well throughout the album, and he is the driving force on the the title track “Zero to 60.” Yet more memorable melodies and positive energy ensue as Bowen once again raises the roof with his soloing. The album draws to a close with the luscious “Omega”. Musically soulful and so uplifting, this is a fitting end to a great set of tunes.

“Zero to 60” is one fine album. As the band leader himself puts it; “Zero to 60 is filled with the emotional sensibilities that bring home the point of why you listen to the music in the first place. How it makes you feel.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Mike Gates