David Anthony Zee
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David Anthony Zee

Baltimore, Maryland, United States | SELF

Baltimore, Maryland, United States | SELF
Band Blues Jazz


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"CD REVIEW: David Anthony Zee - After Time"

CD REVIEW: David Anthony Zee - After Time
By Dan Cohen - 11/29/2010 - 02:59 PM EST

Artist: Band: David Anthony Zee
Album: After Time
Label: neworldmultimedia.com
Website: http://www.davidanthonyzee.com
Genre: Acoustic folk/blues/jazz
Sounds Like: Harry Connick, Diane Schuur, Diana Krall
Technical Grade: 10/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 10/10
Commercial Value: 10/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs: It Had to be You, What'll I Do, Everybody Loves My Baby, Undecided

CD Review: On the cover of After Time, the stellar new album by David Anthony Zee, is a picture of Mr. Zee with a big grin on his face being accosted by a sweetly expectant dog (presumably his). Let's go for a walk! Can we? Can we? Huh?!!! That's kind of like this album: a big wet musical dog kiss. A valentine to Tin Pan Alley that finds freshness in the familiar and unexpected depth in pop sentiment. Songs may be from way back then, but my advice is: buy it now! Just in time for Christmas. It'll sound great at any party.

Album was recorded in Maine, but it has a distinctly cosmopolitan, New York edge, with the band pictured on the back all swinging like crazy in untucked tuxedos. The untucked tuxedo could be another metaphor for this album. Many artists issue albums with versions of classic tunes they try to make 'their own' but end up being ownerless, carbon copies, faint echoes of earlier and better versions. This album avoids that tender trap. First of all, there's the song choices-- a nice mix of the familiar and the not so much. But also, the playing and arrangements all have a looseness and space and fun to them, while at the same time honoring their origins. A perfect mix of formality and ease, the tuxedo and the shirt tail. It's not an easy trick to pull off with such apparent ease. Believe me, I've reviewed many of them!

It Had To Be You, the old Gus Kahn chestnut, starts us off with an odd, uptempo, Mersey Beat-meets-New Orleans(?) treatment that suits it well. Mr. Zee's voice, warm and graceful, plays with and curls around the melody with understated ease. There's a playful version of 'Baby Face', plus a nice rendering of a tune I'd never heard before, Whatsername, that manages to be both comic and poignant by turns, not easy to do in a ballad. What'll I Do, from the pen of the infallible Irving Berlin, is masterfully done, with a lovely vocal and great, simple, uncluttered playing throughout. Mr. Zee is not a flashy pianist, but has a great melodic sense, and he's backed wonderfully by bassist Mike Burd and Josh Fournier on drums. Fournier steps out in Everybody Loves My Baby, a funky gloss on this timeless classic. Produced with clean, spare, deep sound by Noel Paul Stookey (of Peter Paul and Mary fame), the album sounds great. I don't know when I've heard a better recorded acoustic piano. I could have used a bit more backing vocals on some tracks (there are none), but this is a minor quibble.

As long as we're quibbling, I wanted a bit more humor in the vocal on We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye, which seems ripe for Mr. Zee's urbane delivery. But the arrangement is fab, the drums & bass coming in with a nice reggae beat accented on the offbeats by odd cymbals, rimshots, woodblocks, duck calls, garbage can lids(?), etc. Call it circus reggae. It gives the tune a unique signature. After a nice, latin-tinged take on Sammy Cahn/Jule Styne's Time After Time, the album ends with a bang, quite literally, on Undecided. They run through the uptempo tune like pros, then offer an 'out' interpretation involving a lot of noise and random laughter. Just a bunch of cats having a great time. And one very happy dog. - The Muse's Muse


David Zee has been performing for nearly a quarter of a century now. And although he is classically trained, his heart is in the blues and folk music of his adolescence. But, David plays his music with a humorous twist. And judging by the approval rating of club-goers in the Fell's Point scene they love every minute of each and every savvy tongue-in-cheek performance.

David has translated his popular live set into a wonderfully innovative CD entitled "Can't Sit Still" (a phrase I have a feeling was used to describe this artist many times!) It is sometimes difficult to capture on a recording the energy and charisma of a live performance. But, David's invigorating energy and talent shine through on his debut CD.

Perhaps the caliber of players has something to do with the success of this endeavor. David handled the keyboards, vocals, acoustic guitars and bass (a multi-talented dude). Ralph Tucker, drums, has played with Dizzy Gillespie and the Stan Kenton Big Band. David E. Smith has had the honor of playing sax with such luminaries as Ethel Ennis and Jimmy McGriff. And John Grant who recorded this CD at Secret Sound adds a few touches with electric guitar.

But after assembling a wonderful ensemble of players, the true test is the songs. This nine song CD is chock full of the verve that is the center of a David Zee performance. Set to the sound of the honky tonk piano, this CD is just good old fashion fun!

Opening the set is "Absolutely Baby," a piece on the age-old yin-yang between the sexes. The singer is going to do whatever it takes for his baby. It is the "yes, honey" response women want and at the same time we all know is lie wrapped up in self-serving egotism. 

The next tune, "Leave Your Dog," is a live favorite. It is the country lament. You know, "My wife and dog left me. And boy, do I miss that dog!" Set to the sounds of a funky beat and the keyboard playing in a minor key, the lyrics are just a hoot.

"...I don't want your money

You know I'm not a mooch

But I'll be lonely when you leave me

So baby would you leave your pooch..."

And Mr. Zee is not just a one-trick pony. As the soulful and heartfelt tune, "See You Soon (for Ashley)" proves, there is a depth underneath the humor. This short, sweet little song reminds his wife that he will be home from his far away gig soon.

If you are in the mood for some clean fun, throw on this CD or come on out to see this Baltimore native get down. The music won't leave you depressed or morose. In fact, you'll probably leave dancing and feeling groovy! 



"AfterTime," produced by Noel Paul Stookey (Peter, Paul & Mary) - now available on Noel's independent Neworld Media label: www.neworldmultimedia.com



David Anthony Zee has always had trouble pinning himself down into a single style. During his formative musical years, he played in a folk vocal trio, various classic rock cover bands, and other projects. In the 1980s, David led a Chicago-style blues band, was a sideman in a Motown-style revue called the Rhythm Express, and began a 15-year piano/guitar/vocal solo engagement at Baltimore's Waterfront Hotel. His mix of outrageous jokes, musical impressions, rowdy singalongs, and playful keyboard tricks made him a local institution.

The 1990s brought David into an active career composing music for TV, film, and theater, creating scores and songs in a vast array of styles for Discovery Channel, HGTV, PBS, Arena Stage, and countless educational and industrial programs. TV music was a natural fit with his 10-year run as music director for two political comedy troupes: DC-based "Gross National Product," featuring actors and writers from the legendary L.A. improv incubator "Groundlings"; and Baltimore's "Loyal Opposition," featuring Maryland Public TV kids star Bob Heck. Coat-to-coast live show bookings introduced David to a national circuit of special event and theater audiences.

David also wrote and played his own blues, rock, and acoustic/folk songs through the 90s, self-releasing two CDs and performing at concert series, house concerts, and outdoor festivals. David lived in Manhattan from 1997 to 2003, where he concentrated on the great American songbook. Returning to hometown Baltimore, he has continued an endless schedule of club and festival appearances.

New Orleans boogie, jazzy pop tunes, funky swingy blues, densely-chorded ballads, and all David's other influences come together on "AfterTIME," a 2010 DAZ collection produced by Noel Paul Stookey (Peter, Paul & Mary). Noel discovered David through his 2001 win of "Music2Life," the biennial song contest Noel founded for songs with socially relevant content. Noel's famous folk persona is augmented by an eclectic fascination with music from many eras and backgrounds. The resulting collaboration produced a genre-defying "retro-pop-jazz" collection in a classic piano trio setting.