Pinski Zoo

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Reviews of Pinski Zoo


28/08/2006 John Fordham The Guardian

• The Guardian
Pinski Zoo After Image ***

The “British jazz boom” of the late1980s produced such distinctively different improvisers as Courtney Pine, Andy Sheppard and Tommy Smith – but it also fostered an unswervingly hardcore cult band called Pinski Zoo, who mixed dark, throbbing soul-sax, free-improv and jazz-funk with the thudding energy of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time, early Albert Ayler and Pharoah Sanders. This two-CD live set is proof of the group’s sporadic survival into the new millennium, with the original lineup now augmented by a second electric bass – the bass dialogues and guitar-like solos now becoming one of the band’s strongest features. Zoo fanatics (and there certainly are some) will want every crunching impact on these long tracks recorded around the UK between spring 2003 and last summer, though the less dedicated might feel a single cd would have done just fine. But the group’s sustained but constantly free and mobile handling of funk grooves is a collective triumph, and you can get lost in just that for long periods – as in the Zawinul – like Firepoint, with the bassists, keyboardist, Steve Iliffe and drummer Steve Harris showing just how much Pinski Zoo can get out of sitting tight. Jan Kopinski’s throaty tenor-sax drives the Prime Time-like Bounce, and he’s hoarsely passionate on Father Daughter, even if his full-on Pharoah Sanders approach can run out of melodic options over these long pieces.The later material situates the sax in a more enveloping electronic soundscape and there’s more Zawinul and Miles in this intriguing band than in its early days.


20/08/2006 Barry Witherden , BBC Music Magazine

Pinski ZooAfter Image Slam CD 266• B B C MUSIC MAGAZINEJAZZ CHOICE PINSKI ZOO: exciting danceable and darkly atmospheric.With its members involved in extracurricular projects, Pinski Zoo hasn’t released an album since the stunning De-Icer, captured live in 1993. After Image, drawn from concerts across England between 2002 and 2005, has been worth the wait. The classic quartet has for some while been augmented by Kopinski junior on additional bass. He and Bingham constitute a sharp, well-focused unit, threading lines of clarity and strength through the band’s crowded, swirling, polytonal canvas. PZ is still uncategorisable (I’d plump for post-punk-funk-harmolodicism if pressed), still uniquely exciting, danceable and darkly atmospheric, still powers irresistible pulses without stooping to tediously inflexible beats, still conjures nebulous, magical, mysterious soundscapes from forbidding ranks of hardware, still enchants with tender melodies plucked from the rowdiest melee. Less ferocious than of yore, perhaps, but there’s a much-extended palette. Harris is nimble and texture-savvy, Iliffe a master of colour, Jan Kopinski’s saxes as gorgeous and passionate as ever.PERFORMANCE *****SOUND *****


20/08/2006 Chris May, allaboutjazz.com

Pinski Zoo burst onto the British delinquent-jazz scene in the early '80s, around the same time as Neneh Cherry's Rip Rig & Panic.
Rip Rig & Panic sweetened their avant garde jazz content with vocals, guitars, songs with hooks, and some savvy rock and roll image building. Pinski Zoo, by contrast, made no concessions to the broader marketplace...or to anything at all. They served up a raw, unfiltered mix of John Coltrane and Albert Ayler-inspired tenor saxophone improvisations and rough-sex funk. And they peeled the socks clean off your feet.
This two-disc live set celebrates the band's uncompromising 25 years at the sweaty coalface of deep-seam free funk. The nucleus of the original quartet -saxophonist Jan Kopinski and keyboardist Steve Iliffe—still leads the assault. Bassist Karl Bingham joined in '85 and drummer Steve Harris in '87. So even today's core quartet has been together for very nearly twenty years. Kopinski's son Stefan joined on second bass in the late '90s.
The album was recorded across eight different venues in Britain during tours in '02, '03 and '05. There's both new material and re-arrangements of old favourites. Every tune, of course, is a band original, with Kopinski and Iliffe doing most of the writing.
The performances are as thrilling and unpredictable as any on the band's early-'80s breakout recordings. Utterly faithful to their original, post-Coltrane route to the jazz/funk shotgun marriage, Kopinski and Iliffe's playing is as shocking and in-your-face as it was back when they were freshmen.Kopinski sounds practically untouched by the passing years.

His playing is as hot and visceral and in-the-moment as it ever was, and his technique has grown
beyond the merely formidable. He seems more comfortable with subtler nuances and lower boiling points, too: the unusually tender “Father Daughter (Ojciec)” here includes some rapturously lyrical playing.
Iliffe, who was always an arresting colourist and soloist, is on phenomenal form, with a tonal palette as broad as they come. And the rhythm section has never sounded so good: the twin-bass setup allows one player to maintain relentless, on-the-one, groove ostinatos while the other flies free above him.
In short, Pinski Zoo are still out there and still on cracking form. Organic, no-surrender, spiritually uplifting music, After Image is probably the best album the band has released to date. After 25 years at the barricades, that's an astonishing achievement.
Visit Pinski Zoo on the web. www.pinskizoo.com
Track listing: CD1: Bounce; Spymistress; Father Daughter (Ojciec); Firepoint; Jab; Slim; Please Note; Polish Zigzag. CD2: Shed Bounce; Please Note After Image; Nu Choo; Night To Dream; Nathan's Song; Firepoint Sphinx; Stretcher.
Personnel: Jan Kopinski: saxophones; Steve Iliffe: keyboards; Karl Bingham: bass; Stefan Kopinski: bass; Steve Harris: drums.
CHRIS MAY (Aug.2006)


02/07/2006 Chris Parker JazzUK

PINSKI ZOO are seen by many (including US drummer’s Mark Holub’s Led Bib drummer) as the originators of what is now known as ‘power fusion’ – a mix of hammered bass, crashing drums, shifting keyboard textures and keening/roaring saxophone rooted in Ornette Coleman’s harmolodics and James Brown’s funk, but more jazz-based than either.
Intriguing, then to hear them (after a characteristically wide-ranging, witty and oddly-moving 40 minute solo-piano-plus-tapes set from the extraordinary Matthew Bourne) after Holub’s band in a June mini-festival at London’s Vortex, programmed by Led Bib. All the old Zoo power and roiling energy were in evidence, leader Jan Kopinski waiting until the band reached near boiling-point before tearing into his anthemic saxophone themes, keyboardist Steve Iliffe providing the textures and moods, bassists Karl Bingham and Stefan Kopinski complementing each other perfectly and drummer Steve Harris crashing out the industrial-strength beat. At full throttle, there’s no sound as full-blooded or viscerally powerful as Pinski Zoo’s – unless its Led Bib’s. The band played a short introductory set that was almost painfully intense subjecting everything from Erik Satie to simple musical hooks to their full-on, two-sax, no-holds-barred approach, powered by Holub’s pounding drums.
Chris Parker


08/11/0006 Philip Clark, Jazz Review

• Jazz Review

Pinski Zoo have been playing their own concoction of post-Coltrane, post-Prime Time and post-Albert Ayler abstract funk since the early 1980s. This two-CD anthology pulls together material from live gigs, recorded over a three year span, into a sort of idealized Pinski Zoo performance. Tenor man Jan Kopinski and keyboard player Steve Iliff were in the group’s original incarnation, while Bingham and Harris joined in the mid-80s. Add Stefan Kopinski on electric bass and the basic group aesthetic is unchanged? Pinski Zoo is bigger than any single member.

One could criticize a lack of dynamic range in the performance (somehow even the quiet passages are loud) and a formulaic feel to the music’s structuring, but Pinski Zoo have an immediacy and vigour that’s always compelling. Unlike many post-fusion bands, their music retains a rockist edge and they’re unafraid to be a bit nasty. “Bounce” is dominated by the sort of retchy bass line that’s a trademark, while Jan Kopinski’s tenor has rarely sounded so authoritative. “Father Daughter” treads into what could be described as the ‘driven ballad’ territory that David S Ware occupies so skillfully, allowing Kopinski to reveal his lyrical side. But it’s their up-tempo mania that makes most impression – compromise isn’t a word in their lexicon.


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