Zek! The Zek Trio

(Zek 2016)

Kurumi Shimizu—piano

Yasushi Yoneiki—bass

Tamaya Honda—drums

How many audiences are full of heavy metal addicts mixed with jazz piano trio fans? Only the Zek trio, surely! This intense piano trio has played the music of Led Zeppelin—in acoustic piano trio form—for years. Their live shows (see link to review below) are intense affairs. You could call it Zep unplugged except it never feels calmer or lower-energy. The trio kicks the piano trio into a brand-new form that shows “electric” is not about plugging-in, huge amps or racks of speakers—electric is the effect the music has on you.

Let me just state it again, since the idea is so unusual—this trio plays all Led Zeppelin songs with acoustic piano, bass and drums. They crank up the intensity, without  the volume, they use their instruments in ways—pulling the piano strings, screeching the cymbals and popping the bass—that create their own electric feeling. And by doing that, they bring out something unique in Led Zeppelin’s music. Fans who know Led Zeppelin’s music well will be in for a lot of surprises—all of them good. Most of the songs were recorded live, which is perfect as an audience is essential, as with rock, blues, jazz and all musical styles in between.

The trio is doing much more than improvising, they are interpreting, with passion and feeling and virtuosity. Personally, they must be bringing together the zest of their youthful listening with their adult vocation of playing jazz. All the members play with many other jazz groups. In bringing together their interests, they reveal another side of Zep’s music. That comes out on their version of “The Song Remains the Same,” where the drive and energy of the song comes into full play. Electric guitar riffs shift easily, intriguingly, to full-fisted piano chords, as on “Immigrant Song.”  “The Rain Song” comes out as the lovely, lyrical, wistful ballad it always was, even if in hiding on the original. It’s a heartbreakingly gorgeous song.

Zeppelin was always rooted in the blues, which makes it easier for the nearly 20-minute version of “Moby Dick” and 10-minutes of “Bring It On Home” sound as easy in the trio’s hands as they did on the Zep versions. Zek finds intriguing underground connections between jazz, rock, blues and how they have typically been performed. The classic cut “Whole Lotta Love” (basically a blues after all) is a rollicking, fun and just-right closer to the 12-song double-CD recording.

Zek is a trio that has a great sense of fun, but they take the music seriously, too. Their expansive solos on the tunes show great respect for Led Zep, but also show just how well jazz can open up other genres of music. They don’t aim to copy the original. Instead, they build on what audiences know, and bring the audience along to explore a vast range of possibilities while their expectations are upended. By playing such well-known songs, the Zek trio succeeds in creating something new and unpredictable and very, very original.

Live review



Michael Pronko

1-5-17 Higashi-cho
Koganei, Tokyo
184-0011 JAPAN
Phone/Fax: 0423-87-7066

Michael Pronko
Phone/Fax: 042-387-7066