Zaleski question cover web

Album: The Question
Label: Sunnyside
Vertrieb: Good To Go
VÖ: 18. September 2020


Glenn Zaleski piano

Adam O’Farrill trumpet

Lucas Pino saxophone

Desmond White bass

Allan Mednard drums


Der Sommer des Jahres 2019 brachte einen wichtigen Meilenstein im Leben des Pianisten/Komponisten Glenn Zaleski mit sich. An der Schwelle zu seinem dritten Lebensjahrzehnt erfuhr er, dass er zum ersten Mal Vater werden würde. Dies veranlasste Zaleski zu einer Phase der Selbstreflexion. Er begann seine jugendlichen Werturteile über die Welt, die Medien und das Leben im Allgemeinen zu überdenken, um sich auf die einschneidenden Veränderungen in seinem Leben vorzubereiten.


Zalenskis Wahl der Instrumentation war einfach und doch genial. Er wusste, dass er den kraftvollen Klang des Tenorsaxophons und die Trompete als führende Stimmen unbedingt berücksichtigen musste. Der Saxophonist Lucas Pino ist einer der ältesten Freunde des Pianisten und hat schon häufig mit ihm zusammengearbeitet. Er war damit ein logischer Fixstarter für dieses Projekt. Den Trompeter Adam O´Farrill kannte Zaleski noch nicht solange, aber seit er sieben Jahre zuvor gemeinsam mit ihm musiziert hatte, wollte er wieder einmal mit O´Farrill arbeiten.



The Question | Backstep | Smoke and Mirrors | Strange Meadow Lark | Subterfuge | BK Bossa Nova | Road Life | The Answer

The summer of 2019 brought pianist/composer Glenn Zaleski to a new milestone in his life. As he left his twenties, he also found out that he was expecting his first child. This led Zaleski to a period of reflection. He began to reexamine his youthful early interpretations of the world, the media and life in general, preparing himself for this transitional period. 


Zaleski discovered that his initial concerns might not have been the ones he should be focusing on.  He may have been distracted from his path and might not have been asking the right questions. Zaleski’s new recording, The Question, explores the mood during this period of uncertainty and reflection. It also marks the pianist’s return to an ensemble, the quintet, that provided a great deal of inspiration earlier in his development. 


Zaleski was raised in suburban Massachusetts and began playing jazz locally early with his saxophonist brother. He spent time at the Brubeck Institute at the University of the Pacific and at The New School in New York City. It was at the New School that Zaleski began to favor the quintet for his musical demands. The instrumentation is a staple of jazz music from bebop through post bop, providing two horns along with a rhythm section of piano, bass and drums. The classic quintet was essential to the sounds of the 1950s and 1960s, from Art Blakey’s Messengers to Miles Davis and the Blue Note Records sound.


The pianist’s step into the recording world necessitated Zaleski pushing his piano playing and leading skills into the foreground. He put the quintet, the format that he began with and felt most comfortable in, on the backburner and recorded a number of excellent releases for trio and solo piano. 


Summer walks in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park led Zaleski and his wife to the sanctuary of The Vale of Cashmere, a small, secluded pond densely populated with flowering trees. This became a favorite spot for Zaleski to meditate. It also became the spot where he began to compose and catalog music for an upcoming August performance, where he intended to revisit his favorite ensemble format, the quintet.


Zaleski’s choice of instrumentalists was easy and inspired. He knew that he wanted to feature the incredible sound of tenor saxophone and trumpet as leading voices. Saxophonist Lucas Pino is one of the pianist’s oldest friends and collaborators, so there was no question about his involvement. Trumpeter Adam O’Farrill is a more recent acquaintance but one that Zaleski wanted to revisit after first playing with O’Farrill seven years ago.


The rhythm section includes two musicians that Zaleski has long admired and performed with. Bassist Desmond White has been a regular collaborator with the pianist since college and drummer Allan Mednard has been a favorite time-keeper on many stages. 


The Question presents a number of new pieces that Zaleski wrote that summer inspired by his frame of mind. He also included two early pieces he wrote for quintet in college and two inspired covers by two pianists that were influential to him. Perceptive listeners will uncover continuities between the pieces provided intentionally by Zaleski in his writing or improvisations.


The recording is bookended by “The Question” and “The Answer.” The initial piece begins with a sense of uncertainty and tenseness that is teased out by the ensemble’s brilliant performance. The bright “Backstep” is a wistful waltz that utilizes Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” changes, only going up in major thirds rather than down. The deliberately funky pace of “Smoke and Mirrors” hides a slightly sinister melody born of the leader’s feelings about the illusions of truth that are presented in social media; the second half of the piece includes a clever mirrored bass line, completing the allusion. 


Dave Brubeck was a huge inspiration for Zaleski, as he devoured the legendary pianist’s catalog early in his studies, and got to know Brubeck at the Brubeck Institute. Brubeck’s beautiful ballad, “Strange Meadow Lark,” sounds natural and expansive in Zaleski and company’s hands. The lushly arranged “Subterfuge” is an older piece that’s character of deception, at once diatonically moody then rhythmically upbeat, fits the album perfectly. 


Exploring Brazilian music more frequently over recent years, Zaleski penned the exquisite “BK Bossa Nova,” which utilizes some gorgeous modern chordal choices and a heroic guitar feature for Yotam Silberstein. The fantastic blues-inspired “Road Life” was written by the late, great James Williams and is a fantastic, upbeat change of pace. The recording concludes with “The Answer,” the piece taking the same melody as “The Question” but resolving it to a more hopeful cadence.  

Glenn Zaleski found a perfect outlet during his efforts to ground himself before parenthood, namely exploring the sound world of the quintet once again. The multi-directional approach to the music on The Question highlights the composer/performer’s efforts at its most ambitious and personal. 

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