“Earth Tones” – Dan Zimmerman 

The first thing I noticed when I heard the opening track “Hope” from this really great new CD from Dan Zimmerman is the depth and clarity of the  recording – it’s just one of the best sounding records that I have come  across in any recent memories. The second thing that hit me immediately was the subtlety of the harmony both in the composing as well as  Zimmerman’s tasteful but still chops-driven playing. The guitar tones are  constantly shifting, and the sensitive keyboards of Kait Dunton and Luis Munoz’ drums combine  perfectly with the “gracefully in your face upright bass” of Brendan Statom to give a sense of  peace without being anything close to “sleepy”, I was interested and  getting little surprises the whole time. 

The Chase” opens with a Mission Impossible inspired bass line, and  Dan’s “super spy-toned” guitar theme gets some really hip Futuristic  Farfisa Organ backing and reverb and delay drenched guitar. What I found particularly cool here were some crazy guitar harmonics that at first I thought was some crazy Spectrasonics “Omnisphere” keyboard patch – the whole track is filled with juicy sonic candy from Zimmerman’s crunchy blues tinged tones. He obviously has complete command of the post bop jazz vocabulary, but uses it to his own unique tastes that call to mind both Bill Frisell at the same time as players like Robben Ford and Scott Henderson. He closes the track out with some great backwards guitar, which I have always been a sucker for.

Opening with some comedic spoken word clips from Ace Frehley from Kiss (yes, really.  Ace was the spaceman character in Kiss and that audio clip is him telling jokes backstage.  Ace was reportedly Dan’s first influence) “Spaceman” then sinks into it’s mysterious sonic cloud “Forbidden  Planet” dream. Dan coaxes all the cool out of his tremolo bar warbled melodies, with the brilliant addition of a killer Theremin part. This is like “jazz for people that say that they don’t like jazz”, because of it’s closer to  Sgt. Peppers than Stan Kenton. More comedic clips finish it up, I truly love this track! 

The next song August is by Luis Munoz, a Costa Rican composer, and he plays drums in Dan’s band while Dan in turn plays guitar in his band.  He gave Zimmerman the melody and the chords and he ran with this song as he loved the melody–it has a haunting quality.

There’s some sort of “hissing of summer lawns” sonic low level effect throughout “August” that makes you really feel like you are slowly traveling across the desert where you can see the waving heat coming off the hot pavement. Actually, this whole record is great driving music, and I’m certainly going to use it to accompany some future road trips.  Zimmerman’s interpretation of the tune uses a subtly I don’t hear very often and I really love – it just keeps slithering along taking all kinds of little wriggling movements on its’ journey between your ears, and I could listen to his wistful improvisations for as long as he wants to play them as he fades the track out. 

Will You Give Us Your Name” begins with a 50’60s psychiatrist audio clip lecturing ala- Herbie Hancock’s classic ultra cool track “Dis Is Da Drum”.  It’s the sort of “Desert Ghost Town Americana” vibe that is definitely Daniel’s forte and runs through all of his music. His keyboard player Kait Dunton gets to stretch with some very hip harmonic reactions to Zimmerman’s sort of  “Post Bop rockabilly” guitar as the track chugs on down the road to its’  faded ending.  (Interesting note: Dan says that “Will you Give Us Your Name” is about his stuttering, and he found the clip on you tube of a man talking about stuttering in such a matter of fact way. Before the guitar solo there is a big scream. That is me saying “goddammit”–this is frustrating, but is meant to be funny, and at the same time show how frustrating it is to get the words out.)

Chill Out” is the kind of 50’s Tremolo with harmonic twists ballad that fans  of Bill Frisell and current Julian Lage tracks have come to love. As usual, he takes lots of really fun harmonic detours down it’s path, and then all of a sudden arrives at a more bluesy section that definitely surprised me – in a  great way. Then he passes the lead over to the upright bass of Statom for a moment  before returning to the opening bittersweet melody, followed by the whole  band tastefully doing a little group improv to take it out. 

Prelude” is sort of the quintessential guitar instrumental mid tempo  Gospel ballad 12/8 blues. The organ solo from Jim Calire is just as hip as Dan’s playing  with all the hip chromaticism in just the right places that you hear out of the likes of Larry Goldings. The closer “Waltz” has another really great melody with another great performance from the whole band, which is not  to say that it’s “ho-hum more of the same”, they are both really good in their own way and I couldn’t put one above the other in quality.  Drummer / composer Munoz wrote “Prelude” as well, and Dan says that he “always loved the songs Luis recorded it on one of his own albums as a very beautiful vocal ballad–but “I ruined that concept and did it like this”. I wanted to do 2 of Luis’ songs because I like his composing.  Luis writes really good songs that can be done in lots of ways.”

If this was Downbeat magazine, I’d get from zero to 5 stars to rate this record with. But it isn’t, and most of the reviewers at Downbeat tended to be “too cool for school” and be stingy with the stars in those days. But not me, I am a “credit where credit is due” type guy. So, I’m going with 5 stars  just because I really don’t get a chance to hear improvised music in the current jazz world that satisfies in as many ways as this does – it’s got  great recording quality, fantastically well written tunes, and great players –  so what else do you want? I’m going to list to this one a LOT 😉 

You can get the CD at:


Doug Perkins


Dec. 15, 2021

(Revised for the March 13, 2022 release date)