By Ed Enright | Published April 2018
Listening to this new jazz suite by saxophonist/composer Patrick Zimmerli brings to mind the giant, ornate clock located in the heart of Prague’s Old Town Square. I appreciate not only the elaborate network of gears and levers in constant motion, but ultimately the fascinating beauty of the whole thing, in both form and function. Using time as its basic material and inspired by Zimmerli’s love of serial composers, Clockworks is a program of profound music, deeply rooted in a jazz aesthetic, that will be enjoyable to even the least mathematically minded listeners among us.
Polyrhythms and changes of meter abound, as time is stretched and warped to the point where actual beats become unrecognizable and everything just flows. Let the musicians do the counting while you sit back and enjoy the ride. Clockworks is a major accomplishment that benefits from the chops and sensibilities of Zimmerli’s collaborators—pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Chris Tordini and drummer John Hollenbeck—each of whom shares a strong rapport with the leader and understands the goal of balancing “outside”-leading content with more “inside”-sounding statements. It’s a highly structured, optimistic work that begins with abstract note permutations, runs through a course of mind-bending variations and ends on a strong, singable melody. According to Zimmerli’s liner notes, the piece reflects the arc of his 25-year career as a composer, which has undergone an evolution from the more esoteric, complex nature of his early projects to the more accessible, emotionally satisfying qualities of his recent work.