Mark Zaleski (Boylston, MA), was born into a family that loved music. His parents were fans of rock and pop music from the 1960s and '70s, such as The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Temptations, and Stevie Wonder. His friends were fans of 1990s punk and metal bands like Nirvana, Metallica, and Pearl Jam. His brother, Glenn Zaleski, and his music teachers listened to jazz artists such as Dave Brubeck, Ray Brown, Oscar Peterson, Cannonball Adderley, and John Coltrane. As if it were a cocktail, all those influences well mixed, and in their correct doses, served to guide his professional and, of course, musical future.
His unique approach to jazz led him to become the first alto saxophonist selected in 2003 for the prestigious Dave Brubeck Institute Scholarship Program in Stockton, CA, from which he subsequently graduated. Mark Zaleski spent those two years performing with fellow virtuosos and learning from established professionals like Bobby Watson, Ndugu. Chancler, Conrad Herwig, Eric Harland, Greg Tardy, Rufus Reid, Robin Eubanks, and Mic Gillette. He has also performed with Dave Brubeck, Christian McBride, Ian Anderson, Connie Francis, Mahmoud Ahmed, Rakalam Bob Moses and Matt Savage among others.
Mark and his brother Glenn have been playing music and collaborating creatively for the past twenty years in the Mark Zaleski Band, also known as MZB, which he describes as "his passion project." Since meeting at the New England Conservatory, Mark Zaleski and tenor saxophonist Jon Bean have played together as a saxophone duo for 10 years and work together with a single voice.
In 2003, Mark Zaleski met the Brubecks, then in his 80s. "Regardless of Dave's fame and stature, we were greeted with open arms and big smiles. They couldn't have been nicer, which calmed our nerves to a great extent, "reflects Zaleski. Mark and his brother were two of the first students selected for the Dave Brubeck Institute.
Another highlight of those moments at the prestigious Brubeck Institute occurred at the Library of Congress, when Zaleski and his bandmates were preparing their first show with Dave and Christian McBride himself. "Dave heard us play his 'In Your Own Sweet Way' and we played it exactly like he played on his recording. We thought we were doing an excellent job studying the teacher doing things his way, but playing this tune like Dave did really upset him. He insisted that if we were to play his music, it was imperative that we find our own voice. Now, 16 years after finishing at the Brubeck Institute, I think I am really ready to take on the challenge, "declares Mark Zaleski.
And so it is that Mark Zaleski publishes this album entitled "On Our Time: Reimagining Dave Brubeck" as a tribute to one of his mentors, reviewing several of his compositions. And he does so by contributing his own voice, as recommended by Dave Brubeck, with modern, original and striking arrangements.
The album begins with the well-known opening chorus "Blue Rondo A La Turk" from 1959. "The first time I heard" Blue Rondo A La Turk, "it immediately opened my ears to two distinctively 'Brubeckian' ideals; the use of "odd" bars and the fusion of American jazz with musical styles from other parts of the world, "says Mark Zaleski. Very good version.
The second track on the album is "The Duke", from 1955, obviously dedicated to Duke Ellington. Mark Zaleski learned this song when he was at the Brubeck Institute. We are facing another fantastic version, at a slow pace, where the Zaleski brothers' solos especially shine.
"Softly, William, Softly", the longest cut on the record, begins with a classically inspired opening similar to Brubeck's, followed by arrangements for the sextet. The saxophones are wonderful, creating a very special atmosphere, supported by the remarkable rhythm and guitar section. Fantastic composition by Brubeck included in the album "Time In".
"Unsquare Dance" is a happy tune that Brubeck fuses his country and western roots. Maek Zaleski applies a rocky touch to it with Cocheo's powerful guitar, modernizing the original song to unexpected extremes. Good solo from Weller.
"They Say I Look Like God" is an extraordinary piece by Dave and Iola, written for Louis Armstrong to perform in the musical "The Real Ambassadors" (1962). The piece premiered at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1962. When Armstrong sang it for the first time, its powerful lyrics made him cry. Song about racial segregation, here it features the chilling voice of Michael Mayo and the sax of Zaleski no less impressive. A marvel.
When Mark Zaleski, as a child, listened to this Brubeck song, "The Golden Horn," it caught his eye. The piano sounded like it had more than 10 fingers. Mark Zaleski's arrangement brings new musical concepts; all the members of the group are fantastic; the song maintains its original force. And what to say about his performance on sax ...
The album closes with a beautiful ballad entitled "Fujiyama" included on Brubeck's "Jazz Impressions of Japan" album. In the original one of the stellar moments of the song is when Brubeck and Desmond, in the end, improvise together. Mark Zaleski wanted to experience the same with his brother. Both take us to beautiful and idyllic places. Precious.
The interaction between the musicians of this band is impressive, perfect. No one who doesn't feel deeply grateful to the Brubecks is capable of this job.
An excellent album.