Patrick Zimmerli Quartet


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Noted saxophonist-composer Patrick Zimmerli assembled an all-star group, including pianist Ethan Iverson, to perform a suite of modernist jazz pieces that blend complex rhythms and harmonies with lyrical melodies.
– Mark Werlin

Clockworks continues to explore a particular third stream direction in jazz that Patrick Zimmerli made his own right from the start of his career as a composer-performer. This set of rhythmically and melodically advanced compositions, largely inspired by Zimmerli’s love of serial composers such as Babbitt, Carter, Stockhausen and Boulez, is nevertheless firmly grounded in a jazz ethos. Zimmerli says that his main concern in the early years was in forging a new path that had a foundation in the jazz tradition but that was completely original. But now, “Newness is less of a priority than simply taking listeners on a varied and satisfying emotional journey.” Then and now he considers his ultimate musical message to be optimistic and positive: “That might be the biggest thing that sets my music off from ‘mainstream’ avant-garde jazz.”

As Zimmerli discusses in his liner note, “Clockworks uses time as its basic material, it is an attempt to give time the kind of satisfying shape it so often lacks.” From another point of view, though, “Clockworks can be seen as a kind of elaborate justification of my stylistic evolution. There’s an overall progression from the abstract to the melodic that takes place over the course of the piece, just as there has been over the course of my career. The evolution involves a series of permutations of the main theme, which is heard in its most explicit form on the last track. The exact same notes are used in the first movement, which is not very melodic-sounding and might even seem freely-composed. I used the melody itself as a series and made it the basis of “Linear Variation”, which is another of the more “out” pieces on the CD. Gradually the theme settles—it matures—into its singable self.”

Clockworks (a Chamber Music America New Jazz Works commission) was written specifically for Ethan Iverson (The Bad Plus) and John Hollenbeck, who were already performing with Zimmerli in the early 1990s. About his musical collaborators Zimmerli says, “This whole project can be seen as a testament to what an amazingly good sport Ethan Iverson is. He understands and accepts me with all my offbeat artistic sense of humor. Proof can be found all over the album, where he takes the extravagant forms I’ve concocted for him and plays over them in a style that fits them hand in glove. His improvisations are effectively internal compositions in themselves, full of wit and charm and purpose. My favourite example of this is the absolutely loving treatment he gives to “Harmonic Variation”, where he plays that gorgeous opening chorus before playing the written portion. As for John, he is like the composer’s-best friend-drummer, he makes your compositional ideas sound better than they are, and he effortlessly does things that not only fit but enhance the compositions themselves. And I really love Chris Tordini’s sound and the way he supports a band, and his improvising is so subtle you hardly notice how organic his ideas are to the compositions.”

Clockworks was produced by Grammy award-winner Seth Abramson.

Patrick Zimmerli Quartet
Patrick Zimmerli, tenor saxophone
Ethan Iverson, piano
Christopher Tordini, bass
John Hollenbeck, drums


Please note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
A Scattering of Stars (Distention Variation)
Metric Variation
Waltz of the Polyrhythmic Palindrome
Linear Variation
The Center of the Clock
Entropic Variation
Boogaloo of the Polyrhythmic Palindrome
Harmonic Variation
A Scattering of Stars (Theme)

Total time: 00:53:48

Additional information





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Audio Engineer

Ryan Streber


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Original Recording Format


Seth Abramson

Release DateMarch 15, 2024

Press reviews

The album, Clockworks, is a breathtaking foray into metrics, temporal expressions and variations, cadenced movements, percolating polyrhythms, and mind-boggling patterns that make Zimmerli’s music highly contemporary, memorable, and unique. (…) This quartet of modernists allows us to discover new ways of looking at jazz through oblique angles and groundbreaking perspectives. The inviolable authenticity of the group is remarkable, and Clockworks is a preciousness that simply shines with a levitational synergy.


What’s immediately interesting to me, as a nerd who studied audio engineering, is that the album was recorded not only live in the studio — that’s typical for jazz — but live to two-track. Given the quality of the sound, and the spaciousness of the mix, that’s an astonishing achievement, and the producer and engineer are to be congratulated.

New York City Jazz Record

Zimmerli’s precise shifting rhythms…are reminiscent of Frank Zappa’s more classically informed pieces. Drummer John Hollenbeck and bassist Christopher Tordini are charged with navigating all of this rhythmical sleight of hand and are exceptional at conveying the composer’s intention….Clockworks finds a more mature Zimmerli using his early work as a touchstone while eloquently weaving a quarter-century of acumen into an elegantly structured, expressive suite.


Listening to this new jazz suite by saxophonist/composer Patrick Zimmerli brings to mind the giant, ornate clock located in the heart of Prague’s Old Town Square. I appreciate not only the elaborate network of gears and levers in constant motion, but ultimately the fascinating beauty of the whole thing, in both form and function. Using time as its basic material and inspired by Zimmerli’s love of serial composers, Clockworks is a program of profound music, deeply rooted in a jazz aesthetic, that will be enjoyable to even the least mathematically minded listeners among us.


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