Zach Brock is the greatest jazz fusion violinist since Jean-Luc Ponty, hands down. Zach is a long-time member of the world-jazz-funk-fusion band Snarky Puppy and its only violinist. One of his long-time heroes and influences is Jean-Luc and he really has become the standard bearer for this generation!
Dirtz Mindz is a vista of violin virtuosity, a pastiche to Ponty. It stretches from neo-classical soli to fusion fireworks and roaring rock jams. Zach summons an absolute all-star ensemble for the album including Eric Harland (drums), Jonathan Maron (bass) and Chris Bullock (sax), Justin Stanton (keys, trumpet) and Mark Lettieri (guitar) all bandmates from Snarky Puppy.
I’ve spun this many times since its release back in June and here’s my listener’s guide to each cut.
Invocation is a short solo call to herald that this is no question a violin album. It is comprised of about a minute of one extended long deep bowed stroke with a slight echo nature and yields directly into the title track.
Dirty Mindz is a banger of a tile and a tune. It starts with some deep bass and drum tribal sounding rhythm. Zach’s violin is a electrified, rock instrument for this one and it’s just badass. It’s hard to imagine that the horns by Justin Stanton and Chris Bullock (flute) are actually the ‘light’ part of this song. Justin has a terrific synth solo about a third through – the bass and drum rhythm carries throughout which. Zach has the lead for the second half and he rips it in a heavy, abstract mind game before the main theme closes out the tune. Dirty Mindz will change the way you think about jazz fusion violin and sets the stage for the remaining feast.
Who We Are lays down a more melodic framework with a guitar-drum and bass intro. Zach plies a beautiful head with a mix of strokes and pizzicato. He and Mark Lettieri on guitar play back and forth. It’s such a soothing track that flows and then soars with majestic violin peaks. Lettieri has a short solo before Zach plays the theme again with a different key progressive rise to the apex before it breaks back down. The last third has two violins overdubbed playing with a slight out of phase approach. Justin has a gorgeous outro on the keys to ride along with Zach. I could listen to this one all day, every day.
The Way Home has a Justin Stanton keys opener that segues into a guitar and drum smooth jazz rhythm. When Zach enters with violin it’s already got a super groove laid down. This one definitely has a Jean-Luc vibe – Zach’s violin is so strong and pure, absolutely lush and evocative. Midway there’s a uber cool bass and drum section from Jonathan and Eric – the left-right effect in quality headphones is a guilty pleasure. Also, from the midpoint on, this one definitely could fit in the Snarky Puppy catalogue – I could hear it punched up with even more horns. Zach’s violin closeout with the percussion makes your brain feel great.
Threshold is an aperitif palate cleanser with a sustained violin stroke with some overdubbed violin work in the background – a short minute before the next song.
Country Church is a slower ethereal tune with the lead partially split between Zach and Mark on guitar. Zach plays the main theme with Mark slightly lagged behind often with a bluesy twang. Justin has an extended electric piano solo early on with some deep fuzz bass from Jonathan. Zach takes over at the midpoint with an excellent flowing solo – it reminds me of how and why he can double for and play along most any instrument in Snarky Puppy including horns, synth and guitar. The close has Zach and Mark trading to a fadeout.
The Last Song brings the heat right from the start with a stellar Zach solo. The syncopation is Ghost-Note funky. Justin and Zach are playing alternating parts of the main theme for a bit, before Zach goes low end violin for a bit. When he builds to the crescendo, this tune feels a little like to Return to Forever to me. Zach’s violin has a conversational aspect to it, some counterpoint voices. I really love the peaks and valleys of this tune. The march-like drum and bass break towards the end is a surprise change of pace and Zach puts out some of his electronic best here, definitely RTF vibes. Great drum work from Eric Harland and Jonathan matches his intensity in a feverish pace before the main theme closes it out.
Passage is a fine solo closeout with a haunting build and fade of multiple violins with echo. The album is such a great listen and an exemplary work for Zach. I’d love to see some or all of this performed live.
Zach Brock, Violins
Eric Harland, Drums
Chris Bullock, Sax, Flute
Jonathan Maron, Bass
Mark Lettieri, Guitar
Justin Stanton, Keys, Trumpet