Bob Cozzetti - Trumpet & Keyboards.
Tim Gemmill - Saxes & Keyboards.
Steve Bartlett - Bass.
Bob Merrihew - Drums.

One can't help but think that when the history books are written Bob Cozzetti and Tim Gemmill will have their names listed in tandem.

That is not to say that they are not due places of their own. Indeed, both are profound talents whose individual efforts as composers, arrangers, and players are so impressive that they will no doubt continue to please their growing audiences and satisfy their own musical souls for years to come. But, given that they have worked as a team since their 1968 sideman beginnings and continue in that same manner as co-leaders, it is only natural to think of Cozzetti & Gemmill as would Lowe, Burns & Allen or Barnum & Bailey.

The democratic spirit evident in Soft Flower in Spring, the second album by the twosome's quartet, reflects a rare cooperative effort in design, direction and detail whose teamwork is as impressive as the music. Cozzetti & Gemmill share not only in the responsibilities of composing and arranging (there are an equal number of individual and collaborative efforts contained herein), but in their instrumental duties (both are keyboardists who share piano and synthesizer responsibilities).

They also have a shared musical background that is reflected on both Soft Flower in Spring and Concerto for Padre, their 1981 debut album.

Born a few years and a few miles apart, the twosome's 1968 teaming was as a trumpet/saxophone section for a variety of rock bands in Los Angeles, Boston and Seattle. In 1970, they broke from the ranks of rock to join the ranks of jazz with a group known as the Cosmic Revolution Jazz Sextet. Cozzetti concentrated on piano while Gemmill pursued the tenor saxophone; together they composed and arranged the band's material.

Meanwhile, each was furthering his abilities in other instrumental areas. As Bob was refining his trumpet skills, Tim was wood shedding on the piano. With confidence in their new versatility, they formed a bass-less combo, Music Projection Trio, and continued to work in the Seattle area.

In 1972, they moved to New York and changed the band's name to Rorschach, as in the test. Until 1978, the band kept busy working club and concert engagements with such acts as Albert Dailey, Mongo Santamaria, Ramsey Lewis, Larry Coryell and Charles Lloyd.

In 1978, Rorschach, by then a quartet with electric bass, became the Cozzetti & Gemmill Quartet, a name reflecting the democratic spirit of the two leaders.

Cozzetti & Gemmill's first album, Concert for Padre, showed, as my former down beat colleague Lee Underwood pointed out in his liner notes, a team "well aware of the rich legacy handed them from the masters of the American jazz past."

"Their influences include the immortal John Coltrane, the unique McCoy Tyner, the funky Horace Silver and the Prince of Darkness himself, the great Miles Davis."

Not much could be added to Mr. Underwood's observations except to further agree with him that Cozzetti & Gemmill have "their other musical foot planted securely in the present."

Soft Flower in Spring, though something of a stylistic departure from Concerto for Padre, which, by the way, is being considered for reissue, reflects the same, past-present affinity. There is here though, a keener vision of the future; one heightened by melodic strengths, matured improvisations and more deft ensemble efforts.

"Tree Leaves", the first side's opening track, illustrates perfectly the point. A Cozzetti & Gemmill collaboration, the waltz-time piece is strongly melodic and provides a solid basis for the improvisations of Gemmill (tenor saxophone) and Cozzetti (piano). Particularly impressive is the interaction of the rhythm section with the solos and the insistent swing of drummer Bob Merrihew.

Similar in feel and effectiveness is the album's closer, "Sweet Dreams", a piece in ¼-time by Bob Cozzetti. Again, the instrumentation is that of the basic quartet (tenor saxophone, piano, bas and drums) with all of the accepted, and expected, elements of jazz in their due places. Bassist Steve Bartlett, whose contributions throughout are impressive, displays his faculty and musicality in a haunting solo.

"For the Rock Artist" another Cozzetti & Gemmill collaboration, no doubt harkens back to the duo's early days in the background of others' works. Here, though, Bob, on synthesizer, and Tim, on tenor saxophone, are upfront, instilling rock spirit and jazz intelligence. Bartlett and Merrihew, again, are an effective rhythm team in straight-eighths.

The leaders each depart from the other's company for two solo outings. Gemmill approaches his "Blue Jay" from a one-man band perspective, performing on both acoustic piano and synthesizer. Both instruments, despite the piano's being more limited, become effective at creating melody, harmony and orchestral textures. Tim generates only meaningful effects on the synthesizer, a gadget more often misused than not.

Cozzetti, though a demonstrably capable synthesist, is alone at the acoustic piano for "Tunes Just for You", a delicate amalgam of melodies that is simply delightful.

"Soft Flower on Spring", the album's title cut, is also the band's favorite. It is easy to hear why. A gently contemplative piece penned by Tim Gemmill, "Soft Flower in Spring" is a wonderful vehicle for Cozzetti's purposeful trumpet. The tune opens with Bob playing, out of time, against piano, bass and cymbals. bassist Steve Bartlett, before taking an excellent solo, establishes an ever-so-slightly funk groove that Merrihew spurs with authority. Gemmill's piano work is superb and together with Cozzetti's trumpet work, the listener is left wishing that LP's were longer playing, to provide space for more trumpet-piano efforts.

Now that you've read all of this and know a bit more about Cozzetti & Gemmill, sit back and listen. And then listen again. And still one more time. And then see if you don't agree that Cozzetti & Gemmill belong in the books together.

A. James Liska
DownBeat Magazine
December 1983

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