CD Review | "Portalis" from Zack Teran by Alex W. Rodriguez
Electric bassist Zach Teran makes his debut as a leader with this quartet recording, featuring melodic, genre-bending original material that draws on his many years of experience as a professional musician anchoring rock, jazz, and electronic music projects in the Reno, NV area. The compositions reflect a spacious sonic palate, with both wide-ranging grooves and timbres uncharacteristic of a small group with no guitarist or keyboardist. Teran accomplishes this by skillfully incorporating electronic effects in the middle and treble registers on a few tracks, complementing his precise touch on the electric bass.
Teran is also supported by Miguel Jimenez-Cruz’s versatile drumming throughout, although this is sometimes obscured by being low in the mix. Tenor saxophonist Chris Gillette and trumpeter Brandon Sherman navigate this expansive musical territory admirably, giving the album its timbral through-line as well as contributing inspired improvised solos when called upon to do so.
The writing takes a plaintive, melodic turn midway through the album with “Standing Rock” and “How Our Hearts Were,” expanding the emotional range beyond the more assertive opening tracks. The writing loses a bit of focus after the carefully mixed interlude “Flatiron 2,” although the improvisers fill the space well. Despite this, the album leaves a sense of having traversed an expansive territory, not unlike the long drives across the American West that many Nevadans make on a regular basis.