Glenn Zaleski – Fellowship (2017)

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For his first true solo album My Ideal (2015), jazz pianist Glenn Zaleski set forth compositions from others that inspires him to be his best. For Fellowship (February 24, 2017 Sunnyside Records), he applies those ideals to his own compositions.

Returning less than two years later with Dezron Douglas and Craig Weinrib once again on bass and drums respectively, Fellowship gives us a unique “all other things held equal” evaluation of Zaleski’s composition prowess applied to his piano prowess.

What becomes clear from the opening moments of the first track “Table Talk” is that Zaleski is intent on this being a trio outing in a literal sense; the song showcases the rhythm section virtually exclusively for the first minute, setting up his entry that immediately exploits the forward movement created by Douglas and Weinrib as well as space, giving the notes he chooses greater weight and emotional quality. Bill Evans was the master at that, but Zaleski has found a way to do so in his own voice.

The contemplative ballad “Westinghouse” is a nod to the great composer Billy Strayhorn but like other harmonies from Zaleski’s pen, this strikes the right balance between the premeditated and the improvised; his single line thoughts decorate the melody so well. Another ballad “Fellowship” reveals the depth of Zaleski’s harmonic designs: moody hues and complexity are played out economically.

“Out Front” is a de facto bass solo intro to the following “Homestead,” and Douglas figures how to improvise while delivering Zaleski’s melody at the same time, leading into the limber jazz groove of the latter song. The intro to “Lifetime” is handled by Zaleski himself, a boppish figure that launches another groove of a more festive nature. “P.S.” is another inscrutable Zaleski creation that’s full of alluring complexity (and a brief but sharp Weinrib drum solo, too).

Zaleski doesn’t completely dispense with covers on this album: Duke Pearson’s “Is That So?” and John Coltrane’s “Central Park West” each receive extensive workouts. The former swings with all three musicians in perfect congruence. Zaleski wistfully ruminates a bit over the Coltrane tune before settling comfortably into its gorgeous pattern.

Though with only two albums to his name alone, Glenn Zaleski is a fully realized talent as a pianist, composer and bandleader. Fellowship is going to delight anybody who relishes Fred Hersch and Keith Jarrett trio records.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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