Drummer James Zitro is far from the most obscure ESP-Disk' artist, but he has not recorded prolifically (this LP, his debut, is half of the output under his name) or maintained a high profile. According to Sonny Simmons, who used him on his second ESP LP, Zitro had studied tabla in India. It was that appearance with Simmons that led to ESP's interest in a Zitro-led album that came to fruition the following year.
Zitro is masterful throughout, whether laying down a dense polyrhythmic carpet under the other players or unleashing complex solos himself. The work of tenor saxophonist Bert Wilson is also a major attraction here; he boasts a formidable technique and unstoppable power that both come in handy on Zitros "Freeken," a 22-minute excursion in the style of Coltrane's Ascension. There are no weak links here, actually. Trumpeter Warren Gale's strong tone and alto saxophonist Allan Fraskin's quicksilver lines more than hold their own in this intense company. Wilson's own "Happy Pretty" has a relatively melodic freebop head, but it's also a thickly textured all-in affair of exuberant energy. Pianist Michael Cohen's shorter "Sweet" closes the album on a quieter and more lyrical yet far from simplistic tone. Zitro ranks as one of the lesser-known gems of the free jazz movement.
After making this record, Zitro returned to the West Coast. He reputedly gave Micky Dolenz drum lessons to help him prepare for his role in The Monkees; sideman appearances with Charles Lloyd, Essra Mohawk, Smiley Winters, and more are better documented. Zitro cut another LP in 1978, appeared on a Bert Wilson album recorded in 1997, and remains occasionally active from his home base in Santa Clara.
Allan Praskin: alto sax
Bert Wilson: tenor sax
Warren Gale: trumpet
Michael Cohen: piano
Bruce Cale: bass
James Zitro: drums
Tracks 1 & 2 (ESP Disk' Ltd.) Track 3 (Syndicore Music BMI)
Recorded on April 13, 1967 at RLA Sound Studios, NYC. Engineering by Richard L. Alderson. Original photographs by Michael Porter & Jeri Zitro. Production Manager: Tom Abbs. Digital remastering by Douglas McGregor. Design & Layout by Miles Bachman & Michael Sanzone.
"Zitro has plenty of intense, fiery moments -- especially during the latter part of "Freeken" -- and the performances emphasize density." – Scott Yanow, All Music Guide
"...an approach to percussion that's almost melodic at times, and which prefaces some of the more famous experiments in those modes to come both from the Chicago AACM and the New York loft jazz scene of the 70s. Zitro's really got a way around the kit, leaping around with a style that reminds us of Andrew Cyrille at his best." - Dusty Groove America
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