Zaz is the impressive debut album by the French jazz-pop artist of the same name. Zaz takes a fresh and open-minded approach to her music. Gypsy jazz rhythms, pop hooks and Mills Brothers-esque vocal solos collide in a cohesive and fully realized musical vision. The blend of styles never seems awkward, pretentious or contrived. At its best, this album contains legitimately great pop music. Even at its worst, these songs still tower above their Top 40 pop peers.
Rick Stone's Fractals is an excellent hard bop recording. For this release, the guitarist is joined by his live band featuring Marco Panascia on bass and Tom Pollard on drums. The warm sensitivity these players show each other, undoubtedly perfected through countless hours of playing together, provides the perfect context for Stone's fluid solos. The guitarist's tone is truly gorgeous. It is rich, full and despite its well-rounded low end, always clear. Stone's tone and articulation are so inviting that even the most complex harmonic ideas never alienate the listener. The phrasing is sometimes reminiscent of Jim Hall (a compliment for any guitarist), but Rick Stone has his own sound as well.
John Colianni is a gifted pianist with a strong interest in swing and early bebop. Jazz is a very historically conscious genre, even as it is always moving forward. Still, even among the most historically minded contingent of modern jazz, Colianni sounds positively old-fashioned. The pianist keeps one foot squarely in a 1940s swing aesthetic, and, by the sheer joy of his playing, he obviously deeply loves the music he is drawing from. That said, one is not likely to confuse this recording with a swing recording from the 1940s. Colianni has a modern flair that is apparent both in his harmonically complex solos and his occasionally involved compositions. Even at its most complicated though, this music is always swinging, and swinging easy at that.