Pinski Zoo consists of Steve Harris on Drums, Steve Iliffe on Keyboards, Karl Bingham and Stefan Kopinski on bass and Jan Kopinski on Saxophones. The band is more or less Jan Kopinski's brainchild, born of Polish and Irish origins his career spans from teaching to film score writing. The band as a whole has been performing on and off for 20 years gaining awards, critical acclaim and international recognition along the way.
Not being a Jazz fan or expert (I'm not saying I don't enjoy the music, I've just never taken much time to investigate out side of my Rock cocoon) I took a self-confessed Jazz fan friend along with me to gain at least a partial expert-opinion of the gig.
The Lawn in Lincoln was one of the more conservative venues on the current tour, feeling more like a function room than a stimulating setting for a lively and emotive night. Speaking to the band in the interval they echoed my feelings about the venue, mentioning that they adapt their sound dependant on the setting, tonight they tried to 'loosen' their sound to appeal to the majorly (Shall we say) 'traditional' audience present. (Although I always have masses of respect for people making the effort to support live music, especially minority scenes.) On this and previous tours the band have played venues ranging from Ronnie Scott's and Cargo in London to New York showing the wide appeal of their 'Funk-Jazz' fusion sound and demonstrating the aforementioned style adjusting to suit the venue.
But what about tonight? Both of us shared a similar opinion of the band, but from slightly differing viewpoints. The bands PR material describes them as 'Virtuosic Jazz', 'Gritty Funk', 'leftfield territory' and a mix of 'cinema, harmolodics and Eastern European'. Press releases should normally be taken with a pinch of salt but I found it difficult to pick out these influences instead hearing fairly standard Jazz-Funk fusion, with not much to tell songs apart as they all revolved around similar and familiar chords and rhythms. I took the band several songs to get over sound mix problems and warm up, all adding to the problem and just as they seemed to be finally getting somewhere there was an interval which threw everything again. This seeming lack of drive was a shame, as individually the band is comprised of some fairly talented musicians. Steve Harris is a versatile and driving drummer and Karl Bingham has more than a few tricks up his sleeve to aid a Funk bass player. Steve Iliffe and Stefan Kopinski had flashes of inspiration despite spending a lot of the time fiddling and seeming indecisive about their style and technique. I would be intrigued to see the band in another venue or even hear some recorded material, as this is only the second date after a fairly lengthy break in playing and maybe the band haven't quite rediscovered that spirit and cohesion so fundamental to Jazz music. I couldn't help wondering if the band were trying to push their sound onto new more lucrative pastures, toning down their more eclectic Jazz roots and supposedly Hard-Funk sound to try and appeal to a more mainstream market. However with my Jazz loving friend alienated and unimpressed and myself unsure as to quite what I felt, are Pinksi Zoo Jazz for the masses or nothing for anybody?