“If you feel like dancing to Zubatto Syndicate, it’ll be because you can’t resist a snaky bass riff. In fact, if all goes well, you’ll want to drop your pants. Boscardin’s arrangements unfold in surprising ways… The solos are uncharted territory.” — Michael Baker, The SunBreak (Oct. 19, 2009)
Oftentimes, the best sounds are created away from the limelight. It’s not always the headlining legendary superstars on their 75th grandfather tour, (resting on their laurels mind you), giving jazz a much-needed shot in the arm — but the younger cats out in the trenches, using their street smarts, natural abilities, and instinct for daring, outrageous invention.
In the tight-knit, often cliquey Seattle jazz community, new, up-and-coming, aspiring hot shots have to make their opportunity, however and wherever they can. They play small, little-known, cultish venues like Blue Moon Tavern, gather enough coin to put together an all-exclusive recording project mostly out of a labor of love than with any major studio backing, and hope for the best.
A cool band currently out there stirring the pot is composer/guitarist Andrew Boscardin’s Zubatto Syndicate, a 12-piece big band comprised of “some of the best players from the Seattle jazz and improvised music scene.”
Back in June 11, 2011, they celebrated the release of their new, self-titled debut album in the University District’s Blue Moon Tavern. And oh, what a release it is. Available digitally, in CD and a limited edition double-vinyl LP form, Zubatto Syndicate successfully takes big band jazz to a whole other multi-tiered level with notes of blues, punk, hip-hop, funk-soul, metal-rock, and Brazilian music. Imagine Radiohead, Mingus, and Mahavishnu Orchestra all clamoring together, yet making sweet harmonic and rhythmic love. This is Zubatto Syndicate in a nutshell — just what Boscardin ordered.
“The band is an attempt to bring together many of my own musical interests, as well as to create a big band experience that is fresh, accessible and relevant to audiences outside of the jazz clubs,” Boscardin explained in press for the record. “This was truly a labor of love for me, and it has taken the better part of two years to bring this music to life and this recording to fruition.” Boscardin had to have plenty of help, from the American Music Center’s CAP Recording Program, the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, and Kickstarter.com.
From the first track, Zubatto Syndicate makes the most of its big band arsenal, laying woodwinds down against electronica, percussive backbeats, and pulsating, screeching, monster-rock, amplified guitar. Where else can someone hear a bassoon with a bass clarinet, next to drums, guitar, and trumpet? It’s like something from another world. Exactly the point.
It’s no coincidence that the album cover art is of vintage, classic sci-fi — two concepts that seem inharmonious and divergent, yet strangely make its own kind of wondrous sense, appropo for what Boscardin wants reflected in his big band.
“Science fiction imagery was part of the concept of the band and music from the very beginning. Even before writing a note of music, I wanted to use classic science fiction art from the 50s for posters, and promotional materials and started collecting as many vintage magazines as I could get my hands on,” Boscardin continued. “The idea of a modern or forward-thinking big band, to me, conjured up the same tension between seemingly contradictory elements as vintage science fiction artwork. One embodies something new harkening back in time to a rich tradition and pulling those associations forward to now. The other is something old and often kitschy reaching forward in time to an imaginary future. It was that idea that appealed to me — to create something that was as ‘out of time’ as that artwork. The group name itself, was intended to sound futuristic and mysterious in a campy fashion. We all know that words that start with ‘Z’ are automatically futuristic.”
This Z big band can fit in anywhere, from an orchestral maneuver to a barroom brawl. They are: Andrew Boscardin (guitar), Jesse Canterbury (clarinet), Tim Carey (electric bass), Jim DeJoie (baritone sax/bass clarinet), Beth Fleenor (clarinet), Mack Grout (keys), David Marriott Jr. (trombone), Chad McCullough (trumpet), Francine Peterson (bassoon), Janet Putnam (oboe/English horn), Greg Sinibaldi (bass clarinet/tenor sax), Mark Taylor (alto sax), and Byron Vannoy (drums).