From saxophonist Dann Zinn’s first solo on his swinging original composition “Live and Learn,” you can get a good idea of what’s coming on Grace’s Song, the new album from The Dann Zinn 4. And what’s coming is some solid straight-ahead jazz with a just a little twist here and a bigger twist there to spice things up. He, together with pianist Taylor Eigsti, lead you down what you think are familiar paths until you turn the corner and find them exploring new territory. They draw you in, and you can’t help but follow. Beautiful melodies, intense solos: turns out it’s a journey well worth taking.
Six of the album’s eight tracks are Zinn originals. The title song is the highlight of the album. It begins as a tender ballad with a melody that with an added lyric could make the pop charts and then morphs into what could pass for a bluesy anthem. There is a nice little bass solo from John Shifflet leading to some elegant work from Eigsti before Zinn takes over on the tenor. Running almost six and a half minutes, it’s the kind of song you’ll want to hear again and again.
In “Western Skies,” Zinn manages to coax some really interesting sounds from his sax right from the outset, and they got even more interesting as the piece moves on. “Red Rover” gives Shifflet some time with drummer Alan Hall, and has some impressionistic piano work as well. In “Corazon,” they build up to a climactic moment and then sort of peter out as if in exhaustion, a device Zinn seems to use a few times on the album.
The two cover songs are a sweet arrangement of Sting’s “King of Pain” and the old standby “Stardust.” This last one, Zinn explains is for his dad. But no need for explanation, as you can never have too many “Stardusts.” “King of Pain,” it turns out, makes for some very nice improvisation.
According to his bio, after the success of his first two albums, Zinn began to experiment with adding a piano to his band. The result is Grace’s Song; the experiment is an unqualified success.