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Jon Zeeman - Zeeland
(Membrane Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Mar. 31, 2008
Jon Zeeman

Review by Brad Walseth

What would it sound like if the Allman Brothers jammed with avant garde guitarist David Torn? It may turn out something along the lines of the delirious new release from guitarist/composer Jon Zeeman - Zeeland. Zeeman, who has played with both the aforementioned musician/groups offers up a jazz-blues-funk-fusion style that is simply a delight.

"Mr. Head" is funky/groovy and Zeeman plays killer riffs with abandon, while "Surfside" shows the guitarist's more melodic side on a modern take on surf/lounge music. Credit needs to be given also to the shifting cast of backing musicians, like bassist Phil McArthur on the first number, and pianist Tom Regis on the soaring "Surfside." Bob Taylor's organ adds much to the flavor, while Randy Ward brings tasteful fretless bass (Ilken Deniz handles bass on two tracks as well). Drummers Keith Cronin and George Lily alternate numbers, and saxophonist John Michaelak appears to enhance "Kingsize."

Lest the funkery fool you, this is some pretty jazzy stuff, with sophisticated changes and masterful musicianship. The rock and blues elements permeate but don't overwhelm and the results are quite satisfying. In fact I can't imagine anyone listening and not tapping a toe of bobbing their head to the addictive rhythms presented here.

Zeeman's guitar work is hard to describe because he really has his own unique sound. There are flavors seeping in from all directions - one minute you think you hear Roy Buchanan blues and the next it's searing David Torn style, but he can bring it old school jazz style as well. But it is a mistake to say "sound," because this a is a guitarist of 1,000 tones. And all of them are good, very good.

Zeeman's experiences with his own "Studio Z" has obviously given him an exceptional ear, and this album is very well balanced and eminently listenable. The players chosen for the particular songs suit the styles perfectly and there is a nice Miami Beach feel coloring the NYC and southern blues rock influences. Finally Zeeman's chops are incredible, but he still plays within (or just out) of the song structure well, enhancing rather than detracting like fast, but incoherent players often do.

The soulful groove of "Coral" is the centerpiece, but guitar fans will love "Hard Roll" as well. Of course Zeeman really seems at home on the blues and his "D.A. Blues" will please fans of that genre. There really is no filler on this strong release either as even a buried album track like "Y" has one wondering "why" Zeeman is not more well known. Pick up a copy of Zeeland today if you are in the mood for awesome grooving guitar sounds.

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