Zen Zadravec, Human Revolution Review
by Nolan DeBuke
Zen Zadravec is a jazz pianist, saxophonist, and composer with a goal to create music based on the human experience through the lens of Humanism centered on the philosophies of Nichiren Buddhism. Ultimately, Zadravec strives to create music that inspires, encourages, and touches people’s hearts. Zadravec is at home playing jazz, R&B, funk, rock, or pop; he plays each with confidence and profound musicality. He was born in Winnipeg, Canada, and studied classical piano from the age of five. At eleven, he began studying the saxophone and the flute. Zadravec attended York University’s Jazz Program, was the recipient of two Oscar Peterson Awards for excellence as a jazz pianist. In 2000, he earned a Graduate’s Degree in Jazz Performance at Rutgers University and had studied with some of the biggest names in jazz, such as Kenny Barron, Don Thompson, John Gittens, Vic Juris, Ted Dunbar, and Ralph Bowen. Zadravec has performed or recorded with: Ron Carter, Louis Hayes, Karriem Riggins, Ali Jackson, Mike Pope, Mark Whitfield Jr., Bijon Watson, Mark Gross, Derrick Gardner, Vincent Gardner, Todd Bashore, Kenny Davis, Steve Turre, Ralph Bowen, Sean Jones, Conrad Herwig, Freddie Hendrix, Don Thompson, Lorne Lofsky, Charles Fambrough, Valery Ponomarev, Dave Watson, Darryl Dixon, Gloria Gaynor, Joan Rivers, Bob Newhart, Sally Kellerman, among others. Zadravec’s latest CD release, titled Human Revolution, is a musical work supported by the Canadian Grant Organization called Factor or (The Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings).
The set begins with “The Nature of All Things,” which is a Zadravec original inspired by the music of Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Joe Henderson. The beautiful melody flows through an extended form that contains both swing and Latin feels. The horns flow as the rhythm section creates energy under the theme with hits. Todd Bashore’s alto saxophone solo matches the drive of the ensemble, and everyone is in top form. John Douglas guest on trumpet on this track; his playing is fluid and inspired. Mark Whitfield Jr. (drums) and Mike Pope (bass) create a driving swing feel that Zadravec digs into and performs a furious solo of melodic clarity and musical passion.
The Mal Waldron composition “Soul Eyes” is a moment to hear the ensemble’s approach to a standard and the influence of Kenny Barron’s musical mentorship on Zadravec. The soloists are Bashore, Derrick Gardner on trumpet, and Zadravec. Zadravec’s opening chords are beautifully voiced and shimmer with modern sonorities. Bashore and Gardner both perform stunning solos and Zadravec keeps the colorful voice leading throughout their solos. Zadravec’s solo shows his balance of sensitivity and skillful technical lines.
Human Revolution pushes all boundaries in Zadravec’s composing from the use of melody, harmony, rhythm, and even employing odd time signatures and the voice as a melodic device-vocalese. The performers and recording quality are all top-notch. This is a powerful modern jazz statement that you will not want to miss out on!