Double Zero – Zero
Two Records 2037
Call me nostalgic. Whenever I think of Zero, my mind cogitates on a
particular evening in Santa Margarita, a small mountain town just thirty
minutes from San Luis Obispo. While I had never heard Zero, my patrons that
evening were beyond aficionados, potentially into the psychologically
problematic area of "obsessive."
Like most who first heard Zero, Steve Kimock's mellifluous runs were
riveting and the most patent quality of the music. But upon further
listening, the band's setlists became somewhat intriguing. For a childhood
jazz fan, a group with the knowledge of jazz theory to the point of covering
Eddie Harris or Mongo Santamaria, much less their own jazz-fusion originals,
somewhat obviated my stubborn opinions of jambands.
Sadly for most East Coast fans, Zero's talents never became conspicuous.
They never rose to the exalted place many fans envisioned, despite Robert
Hunter's lyrical help. Too often their releases were mired in off-kilter
vocals, egregious arrangements and arguably poorly written songs. Even
worse, live CDs regularly featured truncated performances, while also
containing banal covers simply to fit into the 70-minute format. Bootlegs
which could convey the band's talents and abilities, never quite traversed
the American terrain with the celerity of current jambands; likely an aspect
which would be remedied with our nation's current technological growth which
has made tape trees a far more flaccid process.
Now defunct, how elegiac that their last release, the live two CD set
Double Zero, would reveal the band's true capabilities. Certainly the
vocals could still be deemed problematic, most notably on Bob Dylan's
"Highway 61 Revisited" or the useless performance of Van Morrison's "Into the
Mystic." However, undergirding these flaws, the groups sonic panache and
astute texturing still surfaces. Instrumental tracks "Golden Road" and
"Forever is Nowhere" have remarkable similarities to Weather Report and the
Grateful Dead, where jam-rock melody and jazz theory agglomerate. While the
performance of "Papa was a Rolling Stone," reaches a frenzied zenith and
Martin Fierro's saxophone, Bobby Vega's bass, and Steve Kimock's guitar
melodically interweaving together, Greg Anton's polyphonal rhythms ride the
beast towards a full moon on the horizon.
When hearing Eddie Harris's "Listen Here," or the reggae of Jimmy Cliff's
"You Can't Keep a Good Man Down," Zero had the eclecticism and jazz/funk
qualities which have rendered so many jambands successful. If only more
people were watching.