The music of the Zzymzzy Quartet is available for purchase or streaming at most sites like iTunes, Napster, Amazon, Spotify, SoundCloud, and YouTube. You can also listen to their two albums at the ART HURTS Records website:
Petite Fleur (AHR015 – 2017) features Toby Ahrens on kit drums, Billy Hawkins on trombone and melodica, and Bruce Doyle on slide guitar.
Zzwing! (AHR011 – 2008) features Patrick Marion on bass, Hal Smith on drums, Rob Duncan on accordion, Chad Farran on doumbek, Chloe Feoranzo on tenor sax, and Ray Suen on violin.
SAN DIEGO TROUBADOUR – by Lou Curtiss
Those Gypsy swingers sure get around and the Zzymzzy Quartet is no exception. From Django Hot Club licks by Caravan to South America and New York City, the group covers songs by major songwriters and personalities (Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, and others) and do some of their own stuff too, which happily doesn’t suffer by comparison. The songs range in a time capsule that covers the late 19th century, and mostly the 1930s (even the 1893 “Gnossienne No. 1, Lent” has a 1930’s klezmer touch). Even the Dukish “Caravan” sounds a bit like these guys are hauling bagels from the East Side to Tel Aviv with a stop at the Hot Club to give Django a bite.
We are living in a time when Django Reinhardt is being revered as a minor (at least) deity and every city has a Hot Club or Gypsy swing group of its own. I only have to play Django on my “Jazz Roots” radio show (KSDS 88.3 – a shameless plug) to have the phone light up. There are quite a few people out there playing this music, but very few people playing it as well as these guys. They do all of it well, from the latin “Tico Tico,” the slow standard “What’ll I Do,” and even a touch of Les Paul and Mary Ford on “The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise” although that Gypsy swing guitar creeps in here too.
The group consists of lead guitarist (and harmony vocalist where needed) Beston Barnett who is mighty fine on old time tunes and his own compositions as well. The clarinet player is Matt Gill who lets good taste keep his solos in bounds (he doesn’t try to be Benny Goodman or Dave Taras, he plays what’s needed). Pete Miesner is sort of in the same category with his vocals. He doesn’t try to sound black or British; he doesn’t mumble – just the words that you can understand presented in a pleasing format (his solid rhythm is okay too). Patrick Marion’s bass is just what’s needed to round out the sound. Guestings by Ray Suen (always a good choice in whatever group he plays that hot violin with) and Rob Duncan’s accordion really adds that French cabaret sound. I hadn’t heard Chloe Feoranzo’s tenor sax before, but she really gives that Johnny Hodges-Harry Carney-Otto Hardwick sound to “Caravan.” Chad Farran’s doumbek is a nice touch that even Ellington didn’t think of.
I only have one criticism of this group. The recording should have been issued on 78s so I could play it on “Jazz Roots.” This is one I would hope is in the KSDS record library so that folks around there and other jazz radio stations will play it. The only problem is that with a name like Zzymzzy, they’re not exactly going to be first up in alphabetical listings. Maybe that just means an extra special surprise when you get to the end.