Rushing Past Willow

Rushing Past Willow

Of cycles and recycles
Nick Zoulek
Nick Zoulek
Catalog Number: 
new classical
new music

Bowling Green, OH

Release Date: 
Aug 26, 2016
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

On his debut album, Rushing Past Willow, saxophonist and composer Nick Zoulek refines the idiomatic sound of the saxophone and brings the fruits of this intense research and dedication to the wider world.

Zoulek’s works for solo alto, tenor and bass saxophones were conceived as improvised moments and refined over a decade of performance and reflection. They coalesce into a narrative that is set against a solitary willow tree, serene and poised, serving as witness to a story of lost love, compassion, connection, cognition, perception, chaos, and time.

Through repetition, vocal techniques, circular breathing and unconventional articulation, Zoulek pushes past the typical sound of the saxophone. What often begins as a recognizable line eventually circles back on itself, erasing ideas about beginnings and endings in the process. Recorded with an array of carefully placed microphones, the live performances were assembled into an immersive whole by sound artist Jason Charney.

At once evocative and contemplative, Rushing Past Willow is an invitation to know an instrument better and, through it, the energetic world.

A modern artist with an impassioned eye toward the unification of contemporary art and sound, American saxophonist Nick Zoulek’s focus on collaboration, improvisation, and commissioning new works has led to a diverse portfolio of distinctive performances and artistic ventures. Working with a unique array of musicians and performers, including Wildspace Dance Company, multimedia musicians Netmoiré, and saxophonist Tommy Davis as part of Duo d’Entre-Deux, Nick’s craft has been lauded as “a delight”, and with the capacity to “[take] you to other worlds” (Milwaukee Magazine). Uniquely skilled as a bass saxophonist, the prowess and versatility Nick displays on the instrument has been praised as “[b]eautiful harmonies [singing] in contrast to mysterious knockings and hums, and finally to ungodly, soul-shattering blasts” (Shepherd Express).

Zoulek is currently pursuing his DMA in Contemporary Music Performance at Bowling Green State University. He has studied under John Sampen, Jean-Michel Goury, Matt Sintchak, and Jon Amon.


"The border between avant-garde jazz and certain flavors of modernist chamber music is porous, of course, and Mr. Zoulek’s performance, on saxophones in every range, is stunningly virtuosic, whatever the genre. Circular breathing yields rapidly undulating, swirling figures that seem unstoppable. Overblowing produces ... fascinating chordal figures, as well as evocations of electronic timbres and feedback. None of that would matter much (except to saxophonists) if Mr. Zoulek were a less imaginative composer. Several of his pieces—“Reconsolidate: In Memories,” “These Roots Grown Deep” and the swirling “Symmetry: In Memories,” most vividly—use repetition as an engine. But each has a distinct character, and in every case, Mr. Zoulek’s repeating figures quickly sprout layers that create an illusion of counterpoint. ... [H]is layers are built more inventively, with rhythmic patterns tapped assertively on the instrument’s keys, and bursts of strange timbres—buzzing tones that sound like overheated electrical lines, for example, or brash, sliding multiphonics that suggest an electric guitar with a distortion pedal—becoming second and third voices in expanding dialogues." [FULL ARTICLE]
Allan Kozinn


"Nick Zoulek has it going on! “SSBT” reshuffles our expectations of sound, projecting trancelike cultural memories up a psychic periscope rising into imaginal realms. It’s wickedly contagious, bizarrely beautiful and extraterrestrial all at the same time. In short, it’s magnificent. Don’t miss either “Silhouette of a Storm Bent Tree” or Rushing Past Willow." [FULL ARTICLE] - Randy Radic