Monday, March 6, 2017

Glenn Zaleski - Fellowship (SUNNYSIDE RECORDS 2017)

Through the act of improvisation, the jazz musician is continually composing. When it comes to formal composing of pieces for a jazz ensemble, the jazz musician must be able to not only write a good melody but also to provide a “springboard” for the ensemble to communicate and improvise. Pianist Glenn Zaleski’s second recording for Sunnyside, Fellowship, reconvenes his trio, featuring bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Craig Weinrib, to play a program of original compositions and a couple of insightfully arranged standards. 

Zaleski’s first trio recording for Sunnyside, My Ideal, came out in 2015 and was a collection of standards and cover songs performed in a highly individual and energetic manner. For Fellowship, Zaleski wanted to bring the same musical approach to compositions from his own pen, challenging his trio mates to new creative heights on new, unfamiliar pieces. 

In writing these new pieces, Zaleski paid special attention in crafting compositions that walked a fine line, as he says: “Overwriting can stifle improvisation, but underwriting can result in monotony or chaos.” His ideal composition being one that is both tuneful and a good harmonic/rhythmic vehicle for inspired solos from him and his band mates. The program is accentuated by two pieces by legendary jazz composers, Duke Pearson and John Coltrane, that help illustrate the continuum in the development of jazz composition and improvisation from the 1950s until now. 

The recording begins with the highly interactive and inventive “Table Talk,” named for the pie company based near his hometown of Boylston, Massachusetts. The ruminative “Westinghouse” is a poetic tribute to composer Billy Strayhorn, while Duke Pearson’s toe tapping “Is That So?” is played to a quietly stirring effect. The title track is a wonderfully composed (both in form and esthetic), a true meditation in music. 

Douglas’s tremendous intro bass solo on “Out Front” leads to the harmonic underpinning of the cyclic and longingly propulsive “Homestead,” a song about the frustrations of being on the road. Zaleski’s dynamic blues piece “Lifetime” is dedicated to a club in Shizuoka, Japan of the same name, the piece as joyful and warmhearted as his recollections of the club. The wonderful take on John Coltrane’s “Central Park West” puts the trio’s sensitive artistry on full display. The program concludes with the abstractly grooving “P.S.,” a knotty dedication to friend, vibraphonist and composer Peter Schlamb. 

Pianist Glenn Zaleski continues to show his maturity and expertise as an instrumentalist and bandleader. On Fellowship, he proves his meddle as a composer of note, one who is capable of bending ears toward beautiful melodies and intriguing compositional ideas.

1. Table Talk - (G. Zaleski)
2. Westinghouse - (G. Zaleski)
3. Is That So? - (Duke Pearson)
4. Fellowship - (G. Zaleski) 
5. Out Front - (G. Zaleski)
6. Homestead - (G. Zaleski)
7. Lifetime - (G. Zaleski)
8. Central Park West - (John Coltrane)
9. P.S. - (G. Zaleski)

Glenn Zaleski - piano
Dezron Douglas - bass
Craig Weinrib - drums