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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

Saul Zonana

Live in Buffalo, New York, March 2008

Review by Sonya Kukcinovich Hill

Saul Zonana was introduced to us through Andre Cholmondeley, the Project Object guitarist who has acted in the role of tour manager for both Al DiMeola and Adrian Belew. Belew had produced Zonana's 2006 release entitled 42 Days. He also guested on a couple of cuts on the same release. Prior to Zonana's opening of the Belew show on the same evening, I had visited his website and left with a good opening impression. The live show didn't disappoint as I was treated to this extraordinary songwriter.
Zonana has rock star looks, reminding me of many musicians from the late seventies, but I have to admit that his sound is both at once authentic and retro, but really modern in a progressive sense at the same time. He is also a deft multi-instrumentalist. In lieu of a band, he creatively used sampling and a drum beat box, meshing extremely well with his live guitar work and smooth vocals. I was immediately impressed with Zonana's rich tenor. He is an expressive singer, and his live sound is pretty much consistent with the studio version.

Saul Zonana is an excellent storyteller, as a good songwriter should be, and his musical stories are injected with humor, odd situations of the type to which almost anyone can relate, and tongue in cheek expressions. But most importantly, Zonana attacks each song with great emotive intensity. Phrasing is so important for musicality to ring true, and Zonana's was excellent throughout, with plenty of dynamic control. I only noticed pitch to stray off key on two or three minor occasions where he immediately recovered. Now that's a sign of a really good singer! This showed great simultaneous awareness, something that wannabe artists never actually get quite right, but in this case it is surely an indicator that Saul Zonana is the real deal.

Zonana's repertoire for the evening consisted of selections from his most recent two CDs, 42 Days, (which Adrian Belew had a great role in producing the sound as well as some killer solos), and Zonana's most recent work, the self produced Love Over Money.  Zonana really loves to create a healthy musical balance in every song. There is generally a great intro, super melody line, creative bridges and unique B and even C sections in his soulful writing style. I am very impressed with all of his emotive vocal expressions, even moreso as I listened to him throughout the evening.

This is an artist that can truly grow on you in every sense of how his music is expressed. The fact that both he and Belew's band had to arrive under the most dire of weather conditions, being tired and hungry from a difficult travel schedule through several snowstorms and even a blizzard, speaks completely for his level of commitment and professionalism. It seems he is prepared to how far his self driven efforts will take him. This is something that artists today need to understand if they are going to make it. The industry has changed far too rapidly for it to be anything else. Zonana is truly committed to that effort to make his fine music known. If you love tonal, melodic, poppish prog with a psychedelic feel at times, then you'll enjoy Saul Zonana greatly. I invite you to check out his music. Spend a few dollars and buy one of his CDs. He won't disappoint you, and he certainly hasn't disappointed me!
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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