Reach For The Sky
CAT # HUCD3063-25
1. This Is The Day 4:28 2. Far Away 3:48 3. It's Too Late 3:59 4. Angela 4:59 5. I Just Wanna Stop 3:53 6. Bellavia 4:55 7. A Hard Day's Night 4:33 8. Reach For The Sky 4:54 9. Swinging Shepard Blues 4:03 10. Amazing Grace 7:12
In a career that spans three decades, flutist Alexander Zonjic has dabbled and excelled in everything from jazz to classical to rock to instrumental pop. Simply put, he’s all about pushing his limits and trying new things. What better title, then, for his new release on Heads Up, than Reach for the Sky.
Aided by some of the most prominent figures in contemporary smooth jazz, Zonjic offers a mix of familiar pop songs and original material that represent not just his musical vision, but his perspective on life in general. “I wanted to cover some tunes that had some significance in my life and my musical philosophy,” says Zonjic. “I wanted to include a lot of strong melodies that I personally had a real connection with.”
But if that approach results in a mixed bag, Zonjic doesn’t mind. “My tastes have always been very eclectic,” he says. “I was originally a rock and roll guitar player who bought a flute off a guy on the street. Then I was introduced to classical music, and I toured with pianist Bob James all through the ‘80s. So I’ve kind of come into this whole music world very much with the focus on being a fine player, and not with being just a ‘jazz musician’ or just a ‘pop musician.’”
Reach for the Sky includes something for everyone. Even the most casual listener will immediately recognize Zonjic’s lightly grooving rendition of Carole King’s classic ballad, “It’s Too Late,” as well as his breezy take on Bob James’ familiar “Angela” (Theme from Taxi),” a melody that has transcended it’s prime-time TV origins in the ‘70s. Zonjic reaches back even further to the height of the British Invasion of the ‘60s with a unique reading of the early Beatles hit, “Hard Day’s Night.”
“I could have done one of the quieter, prettier Beatles songs, and it would have made a great flute tune,” says Zonjic. “And I may still do that someday. Let’s face it, those are some of the greatest songs ever written. But there was something about ‘Hard Day’s Night’ the song, the movie, the period that really struck a chord with me.”
Amid the more recognizable covers are Zonjic’s engaging interpretations of songs penned by Kirk Whalum (“This Is the Day”), Chuck Mangione (“Bellavia”) and the late Moe Koffman (“Swinging Shepherd Blues”). He even touches base with the spiritual side in the light-hearted but moving closer, “Amazing Grace.”
Lending a hand throughout the album’s ten tracks are some of the most prominent names in contemporary instrumental music, including sax man Kirk Whalum, keyboardist Jeff Lorber, guitarist Earl Klugh and others. “Making a record and being in the studio with these guys, watching them each in their own way bring their magic to the table, really was a lot of fun,” says Zonjic. “To have gotten to a point in your career where you can call on them and they can make such significant contributions to your product is a total and complete blessing.”
Originally an aspiring rock guitarist in his hometown of Windsor, Ontario, Zonjic changed direction at age 21 when a stranger on the street offered him a flute (most likely stolen) for 50 bucks. Zonjic bought it for nine, and immediately committed himself to mastering it. After several years of classical training financed by numerous rock guitar and jazz flute gigs Zonjic landed a decade-long international touring gig with Bob James that led to a solo recording career in the early ‘90s.
Since those early days, Zonjic has joined an elite group of flutists who have dedicated their careers to pushing the instrument beyond its traditional context in classical music and into the realm of jazz. The mission is not without its occasional challenges, “but there are those few great exceptions, like Herbie Mann or Hubert Laws,” he notes. “As an instrumentalist, I strive to be the next exception. When you think about it, the flute is a sensual instrument. It’s one of the closest instruments to the human voice.”
Find out more about Alexander Zonjic