The summer of 2017 thus far has heard a good amount of loud, crashing, dynamic music coming from my apartment–speed metal, hard rock and hard bebop, fast and infuriating. Understandably, noise complaints, frayed nerves, and headaches ensued before long, necessitating a change of music, both in tunes, tone, and mood. Rather handily, Petite Fleur by Zzmzzy Quartet came into my possession. Noise complaints ceased, nerves soothed, headaches abated, and the apartment currently resounds with the mellow gypsy swing of the Zzmzzy Quartet. The first word of the troupe’s name, their web site advises, rhymes with “whimsy.”
And whimsy it is, as this time honored music is performed by four skilled musicians (Beston Barnett on guitar and vocals, Matt Gill on clarinet, Paul Hormick on upright bass, Peter Miesner on guitar and lead vocals) who move through the snaky and occasional minor key melodies and acrobatic chord progressions with contagious good humor. This is hardly a stiff resurrection of an old timey style; this is music that pulses, moves, and swings, performed by some guys who continually find the sweet spot in the heart of the songs. Principle in this effect is the sultry and sonorous playing of clarinetist Gill, who provides a tone that is rich and finds the right emotion a song’s melody suggests, either doleful or exhalting, gleeful or meditative. His reading of the title tune, Sidney Becket’s “Petite Fleur,” rises and ebbs fluidly, each note a smooth caress against a steady and sympathetic back up of guitarists Barnett and Miesner and the resonant bass work of Hormick.
The Zzymzzy Quartet, in turn, sweetens the pot with the fine medley of Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood and Solitude,” a beautiful guitar figure framing Gill’s nuanced reading of the melody and a brooding improvisation that joins the contrasting melodies of both songs. Sweetness abounds again with a jaunty take on “Lazy River” by Hoagy Carmichael, jumping and jamming with piquant guitar and reed, making marvelous miracles though out. There is quite a bit of splendidly played music on this music, not of this time but timeless in the sense of joy that very fine tunes provide when played with the love and inspiration Zzymzzy Quartet obviously has. Those of you who like their swing jazz rousing, spiky and fleet fingered, are in for a treat with the album’s final track, a robust take on “Sweet Georgia Brown.” Guitar, clarinet, trombone (guest artist Billy Hawkins) take turns twisting and rocking the melody, the rhythm firmly propulsive, all before a wonderfully plaintive vocal from Miesner and Barnett. This has been playing at least once a day as of this writing, which is to say that Zzmzzy Quartet’s Petite Fleur is cool and keen and a wonderful reminder that there is little in this life that good music can’t make better.
Zzymzzy Quartet’s Petite Fleur CD release and dance takes place on Friday, August 18 at Queen Bee’s, 3925 Ohio Street in North Park, 7:30pm.