THE MUSICAL LEGACY OF BOB COZZETTI AND TIM GEMMILL

Bob Cozzetti and Tim Gemmill have been performing music together for a half-century. They first met up musically in their hometown of Seattle back in 1967 when Gemmill was playing tenor and flute with the Jimmy Hanna Blues Band. Cozzetti, a boyhood friend of Hanna, was partly responsible for Gemmill joining the band, occasionally played trumpet with the group in addition to helping with management. The pair became good friends, frequently played at jam sessions, and began freelancing together as a horn section.

Originally they primarily performed with many rock and r&b groups. Cozzetti and Gemmill spent a year apiece working in Los Angeles and Boston, having some success. Back in Seattle they organized a jazz group that included a cellist and was called the Cosmic Revolution Jazz Sextet; it featured Cozzetti on piano and Gemmill on saxophone and flute. They were next part of the rock band Ron Holden and Good News before deciding to concentrate much more on playing creative jazz where they could express their own creative visions. In 1970 they formed the Music Projection Trio, an intriguing bassless unit in which the pair switched between their horns and keyboards while being joined by drummer Steve Swartz. When that group had run its course, they moved near New York and worked frequently as freelancers, co-leading Rorschach for five years. After deciding to return to Seattle, Rorschach was the name of their band for a short time. They soon renamed their group the Cozzetti & Gemmill Quartet and finally Cozzetti & Gemmill. They worked constantly with their unit throughout the 1970s and ‘80s.

Voyage of the Mummy was recorded at Gerdes Folk City in New York City back in 1977. It was released for the first time 30 years later and features Gemmill on soprano, Cozzetti playing electric piano, electric bassist Midge Pike and drummer Wes Jensen. The CD begins with a version of John Coltrane’s “Cousin Mary” on which Gemmill is showcased in a keyboardless trio, jamming the blues. The other two selections are a lengthy exploration of a lyrical jazz waltz (“Red Valley”) and the more involved title cut which evolves as it progresses, sometimes in surprising directions. Cozzetti’s Fender Rhodes keyboard sounds quite modern both technically (using up-to-date equipment) and in his ideas. Gemmill’s soprano blends in quite well and, while he has his solos, he operates very much as a team player in the ensembles. Even this early in their development, Cozzetti & Gemmill had their own sound.

At the beginning of the 1980s they formed their own Cozgem label to release some of their projects. Cozzetti & Gemmill recorded their first studio album Concerto For Padré in 1981. Two years later they were documented by the ITI label on Soft Flower In Spring. Those two albums have since been reissued by Cozgem as Timeless.

With the addition of Steve Bartlett on electric bass and either Fred Taylor or Bob Merrihew on drums, the quartet performs ten originals by the co-leaders. Cozzetti is featured on trumpet, Moog synthesizer and acoustic piano while Gemmill switches between tenor, soprano, Moog synthesizer, Fender Rhodes and acoustic piano. With its keyboards, the music on some selections has the sound of vintage fusion but it also includes post bop explorations, modal vamps, and sophisticated funk patterns. Whether it is the ballad “Captain Pike” (which features Gemmill’s soprano) , the atmospheric “Blue Jay,” Cozzetti’s hot trumpet solo on “Cyclops,” or the catchy theme of “Contemplating Raindrops” (which becomes a Coltranish piece), the music has plenty of variety and keeps one guessing. It still sounds fresh more than three decades later.

Through the years, Tim Gemmill and Bob Cozzetti have continued working together in many settings. Their two most recent recordings, Road Songs and its follow-up Road Songs 2, are a bit unusual for they showcase Gemmill as a solo keyboardist while Cozzetti is the co-producer.

Through overdubbing, Tim Gemmill creates a digital orchestra on these two projects. His expert utilization of the UltraProteus, the Memorymoog, the Prophecy, the Kawai, a drum synthesizer and colorful samplers results in unique blends of sound. In addition to the electric and acoustic keyboards, one can hear a guitar, bass lines, drums, and percussion, all performed by Gemmill.

Yet, as is apparent during the ten pieces included on Road Songs (eight Gemmill originals, a short Bach melody, and a remake of “Red Valley”), that the music is far from a gimmick. Tim Gemmill uses his instruments to serve the music rather than the other way around. The performances develop into musical adventures, road trips in which the listener (while not sure of the ultimate destination) enjoys the ride. Road Songs 2 includes such highlights as “Proteus 2” (which sounds like the soundtrack to a 1960s spy movie), the celebratory and danceable “Groove On,” the singable “A Little Something,” and John Williams’ “Can You Read My Mind” which utilizes the sound of wordless singers.

Bob Cozzetti and Tim Gemmill continue to be major forces in the Seattle music world and can look back on 50 years of rewarding musical projects.

Scott Yanow
July, 2017
Scott Yanow Jazz

Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian and author of 11 books including The Great Jazz Guitarists, Jazz On Film and Jazz On Record 1917-76.

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