Chances are you never heard of Drew Zingg, but if you’ve listened to Steely Dan, Boz Scaggs, Michael McDonald, or the New York Rock and Soul Revue – you’d know. Zingg has also worked with David Sanborn, Gladys Knight, Marcus Miller, Rickie Lee Jones, Donald Fagen’s solo projects, and served as music director for the Dan of Steel’s 1993 reunion tour. He’s also worked on Broadway as the lead guitarist in Jersey Boys, Spamalot, Hairspray, Mamma Mia, and Smokey Joe’s Café, which won a Grammy Award for best Broadway soundtrack from 1995. The fifty-five-year-old Zingg also grew up in the New York City area, and was obviously influenced by the sounds of the seventies, but he currently resides in San Francisco. This is Zingg’s first solo recording. On every track is bassist Will Lee, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, ex-Brecker Brother George Witty on keyboards, saxophonist David Mann, and features guest vocal spots by former employers Boz Scaggs, Michael McDonald, and a couple of others.
Zingg pays homage to Becker and Fagen on a smartly executed instrumental “Megashine City,” that finds Zingg initially sounding very much like Larry Carlton, but as the track progresses he gives it his own style with an abundance of very imaginative soloing. Next up is Lionel Ritchie’s “Easy” sung here by Michael McDonald who sounds more edgy than usual, which is a good thing. Zingg trades guitar solos back and forth with McDonald’s vocals and it really works. Eventually Zingg rolls off on his own and goes out in the fade.
“One Off,” authored by keyboardist George Whitty, has a “Compared To What” groove that finds bassist Will Lee kicking the bottom. Then Zingg swoops in and we’re off to the races. Colaiiuta pounds away and the horns add flavor as this tune turns into a delightful instrumental romp. “The Black Dog,” written by producer George Petit, is slowly introduced by Zingg but gets highly charged and intensely emotional as Zingg amps up his power playing off Colaiuta’s expressive and dynamic drumming. Boz Scaggs adds drop-dead gorgeous vocals to Buddy Johnson’s “Save Your Love For Me.” The entire tune gels evocatively and Zingg swings sweetly here with a sumptuous midway solo that sets up Boz for more tender and emotive vocalizing. The late Don Grolick’s “Cactus” blew me away as it was on this tune that I first heard Hiram Bullock with the Brecker Brothers (who later enlisted this album’s pianist Whitty). I first heard it on the airwaves from the mid-seventies CTI release by David Sanborn and Joe Beck, that also employed Grolick’s piano playing. Zingg interprets this New York City classic to perfection and seemingly pays respect to the late Hiram Bullock; this tune is a unsuspected and very welcomed treat for me!
Changing the mood, there’s also an nice cover of Don Robey’s “Two Steps from the Blues,” sweetly sung by Christine Lynch. Will Lee contributes his “Dear Lord, What the Hell are You Trying to Say?” which is a perfect instrumental addition to this very fine collection of assorted tunes that finds the entire band in an enticing and playful mood, especially near the end with Colaiuta’s captivating drumming. Petit’s “Tennessee Strett” is reminiscent of the CTI label’s recordings at Rudy Van Gelder’s (House of Impeccable Recordings) from the seventies, and something I might have heard on the airwaves on the long defunct progressive New York City jazz radio station WRVR, which offered a radio format that went beyond typical jazz boundaries. Monet Owens vocally adds a gospel feel to Whitty’s “You Make It Right (When It Rains”). Whitty’s “Highway 86” closes this hip disc in a boogie fashion where bassist Will Lee rolls in the pocket with drummer Colaiuta setting the scene for Zingg and the band to pour it on!
This is a first-class recording that also has dynamic audio quality and superb playing throughout. Zingg surrounds himself with top-shelf artists, and rewards the listeners with a delectable offering of nearly seventy minutes of exhilarating sounds. I don’t know why it took Zingg so long to manufacture his debut recording, but I can tell you it was well worth the wait. Turn it up, enjoy, and get down!
Bob Putignano is a senior contributing editor at BluesWax, a contributing writer at Blues Revue, and the heart and soul of Sounds of Blue.