Zen Zadravec | Human Revolution
by Stamish Malcuss
Zen Zadravec is a jazz pianist, saxophonist, and composer who has a goal to create music based on the human experience through the philosophies of Nichiren Buddhism. His music creates an emotion that inspires, encourages, and touches people’s hearts. Born in Winnipeg, Canada, Zadravec studied classical piano from the age of five. At eleven, he began studying the saxophone and the flute. Hearing Miles Davis transformed his life and influenced his decision to become a jazz musician. In 1992, Zadravec attended York University’s Jazz Program, and in 1997 he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. During his time at York, Zadravec was also the recipient of two Oscar Peterson Awards for excellence as a jazz pianist. In 2000, he earned a Graduate’s Degree in Jazz Performance at Rutgers University. Zadravec also studied with some of the most influential jazz names, such as Kenny Barron, Don Thompson, John Gittens, Vic Juris, Ted Dunbar, and Ralph Bowen. Zadravec’s latest CD release, titled Human Revolution, is a musical work supported by the Canadian Grant Organization called Factor or (The Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings).
The energetic “The Nature of All Things” begins the album with a compelling composition by Zadravec. The horns play the melody as the buoyant rhythm section propels the feels through the extended form. Todd Bashore takes the first solo on saxophone; his musical statements are melodic and based on the modern jazz tradition. Trumpeter John Douglas takes the second solo; his interaction with Zadravec is excellent. Zadravec’s solo is a powerhouse of fantastic time and strong melodies. His ideas flow into each other as he effortlessly navigates the harmony with technical ease.
“Mentor Disciple” keeps the energy percolating with a pleasing composition by Zadravec. The counterpoint between the rhythm section and horns is a treat. Conceptually, the music is motivated by the Buddhist principle called: Mentor Disciple Relationship. In Nichiren Buddhism, one is concerned with the happiness of others and their personal development. Thus, the Mentor Disciple Relationship is fundamental. This relationship between mentor and disciple in Buddhism is the shared pledge to work together for people’s happiness and free them from suffering. Altruism. The altruism in this ensemble is high; everyone is profoundly listening, interacting, and creating as a whole for the common goal of expression. Zadravec’s power on the piano is palpable, his chordal rhythms pushing his melodic lines with energy, but never over excitement.
Zadravec has an amazing project with Human Revolution. The eight tracks bring a focused snapshot of an artist that is mature in his musical vision and statement. It is built on musical mastery and spiritual focus. Human Revolution is a modern jazz masterpiece that needs to be heard by all jazz fans.