Equipped with a 'rode hard and put away wet,' whiskey-soaked rasp and a deep bag of keyboard chops that echoes some of the greats of country, rhythm & blues and gut-bucket rock, David Zollo brings to The Big Night the kind of savvy, trans-genre synthesis you might expect from a grizzled road warrior 20 or more years his senior.
Precocious from jump street, Zollo has always been ahead of the curve.
He began playing the piano at the age of four and, steeped in his writer/journalist daddy's eclectic record collection (jump blues, whorehouse jazz, folk, vintage rock, soul and Golden Era country, you name it), the kid with an "old soul" was regaling family house parties with knockout Ray Charles and Huey "Piano" Smith covers by his early teens.
Zollo founded High and Lonesome, a hell-raising quintet that fused the Stones, Southern rock and alt-rock'n'country in the early '90s. Over the next five years, the band careened across the Midwest, playing over 200 gigs per annum and releasing three discs (plus David's first solo effort) on his own Iowa City-based Trailer Records label along the way.
The ravages of time, travel, well, just too much of 'too much' took their toll on "Hi & Lo," particularly on the band's hard-charging leader. A career-threatening throat condition was remedied by surgery, extensive therapy and no small amount of luck, but as Zollo & Co. readied for more studio time, it was clear that they had reached an impasse.
The band dissolved, and what began as the fourth High & Lonesome recording became Zollo's second solo disc - the earthy, rustic and decidedly more stylistically diverse Uneasy Street.
Throughout these formative years, complex, give-and-take relationships were developed between Zollo and the previous generation of Eastern Iowa's roots-music heavyweights.
The flexible keyboardist was mentored by (and picked up regular gigs/session work with) celebrated singer/songwriter Greg Brown and guitarist/producer Bo Ramsey (Brown, Lucinda Williams, Dave Moore, Kevin Gordon, Teddy Morgan, Joan Baez, etc.). Meanwhile, David's Trailer imprint has issued acclaimed discs by Ramsey, Brown and extraordinary, ghost-channeling bluesman Joe Price, as well other stellar Iowa roots musicians.
Zollo's brand-new The Big Night burns out of the gate with the steamy bump-and-grinder "While You Undress," a swank little number that conjures up the dangerous, halcyon days of the Mick Taylor-era Rolling Stones. The artist's gift for seamless cross-pollination of musical forms is evident everywhere. "Eye Of The Needle" welds fire-and-brimstone gospel imagery to soaring country rock, "Why Don't You Stop Me Now" slaps The Band's in-bred harmonies and music hall ethos atop an inebriated hip-shake worthy of The Faces, and the title track pours a lacy, Charlie Rich-styled piano line over rolling Hammond organ in a dreamy, melancholy waltz.
The disc's only song not penned by Zollo is Bo Ramsey and Kevin Gordon's criminally-overlooked "Get Away," a rollicking, 'Loserville' anthem whose chorus ("Oh, get away, this old town is like a ball-and-chain/Gotta run, gotta run like a fast freight train") will have folks all over the planet swearing it was written specifically for their own miserable burgs (and it was). The alchemy continues.
"You're Gonna Get What You Wanted" is a loopy, sassy floor-burner in which Lynyrd Skynyrd serendipitously mind-melds with NRBQ (yoiks!), "Lonesome Childhood" is a sweet, closing-time weeper with Bo Ramsey (who also plays on "Eye Of The Needle") adding atmospheric guitar textures, "Respect (Ain't A One-Way Street)" intersects with high-stepping country-rock, and the heartbreak country of "Take Me Away" gets a gorgeous, three-hankie treatment from Iowa legend Dale Thomas' pedal steel guitar.
Backing up Zollo will be Billy Valencia, Randall Davis and Brian Cooper. Be sure to come out and see these show stopping performers.
The venues for the popular Pub Crawls scheduled for Friday and Saturday nights are as follows:
*Friday, Jan. 7
The Northwest Iowa Musicians will appear at The Copper Cup from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Dr. David Klee & The Jazz Express will perform at The Spice Rack from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Jimmy Davis & Friends will be at The Gathering Place from 9 p.m. to midnight.
David Zollo will be at The Other Place from 9 p.m. to midnight.
Bob Dorr & The Blue Band will be at VFW Club from 9 p.m. to midnight.
Erick Hovey Band will be performing at the Cherokee Bowl from 9 p.m. to midnight.
*Saturday, Jan. 8
Levee Town will be hosting the Saturday Jam Session at The Gathering Place from noon to 3 p.m.
Youth Talent Showcase, a talent showcase of young musicians in the area, will be held at The Spice Rack from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Levee Town and opening act Adam Schroeder Quartet will play from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Festival's Main Concert at Western Iowa Tech Community College Conference Center.
Erick Hovey Band will be at The Gathering Place from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Mary Bridget Davies Band will be at The Other Place from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.
The David Zollo will be at the VFW Club from 10 p.m. to 1 p.m.
Bob Dorr and Blue Band will be performing at Cherokee Bowl from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.
The Sunday afternoon concert will feature the Gospel Music of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church Choir of Sioux City and will be held at Cherokee's St. Paul's United Methodist Church from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
The popular Student Music Clinic for invited area schools conducted by the Jim Oatts Sextet will be held at the Cherokee Middle School Friday, Jan. 7 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For more information on the Cherokee Jazz and Blues Festival go to the web site at www.cherokeejazzbluesfestival.