Joining Zaleski is Dezron Douglas on bass and I couldn’t be happier. Douglas never disappoints. He is innovative and accommodating at the same time. Douglas understanding of Jazz is second to none and was introduced to Zaleski through Ravi Coltrane.
Craig Weinrib is on drums. His straight ahead Jazz approach is sustaining and complimentary to the whole. Weinrib and Zaleski has been playing together occasionally since their days at the New School.
The album arose from a gig that Zaleski was to play and his usual band-mates were unavailable. Thus, Douglas and Weinrib. The results for the gig and this recording are a study in fortunate convergence.
Zaleski is a brilliant composer himself but for “My Ideal” he played seven standards along with two compositions from his friends. The standards are given fresh treatment from Zaleski’s brilliant arranging. These arrangements glow in the light of this particular trio.
The album opens with Jerome Kern’s “Nobody Else But Me.” The solo piano introduction gives an immediate foreshadowing of the Zaleski touch that is on such clear display throughout the rest of the album. The full trio sets it jumping.
Christian McBride speaks of the beauty of seeing the bass and the drums becoming one instrument, as it were, and Douglas and Weinrib achieve that very thing. There is fond interaction within this fun and dynamic trio.
Bassist Rick Rosato is a friend of Zaleski and was the composer for “Waltz for MD.” It is yet another example of the Zaleski touch. Flowing and warm, there is a great groove that has moments of a bit of melancholy that is turned into a near-wistfulness by the delicate expression of the trio. Certainly in all the recordings I have ever heard with Zaleski or Douglas, that delicate expressiveness is a characteristic that is always seen clearly.
Zaleski plays the waltz in such a way that the very image of a waltz begins to take shape—unbidden—in the listener’s mind. With Douglas and Weinrib, Zaleski creates colorful expressions that are so rich in tone and texture.
“Make Someone Happy” is the Jule Styne number made famous by Jimmy Durante, Aretha Franklin, Perry Como and more. The movie “Sleepless in Seattle” gave it a new audience, as well. Styne’s original is lovely and sweet and Zaleski’s arrangement adds honey on top. I mean, really. Zaleski added a bit from one of his own compositions and the results are completely embraceable.
Zaleski plays the first lyric note as a quadruplet and that simple element is a thing of beauty. Douglas and Weinrib again achieve that oneness that makes them all so tight in the pocket.
The conclusion is an engaging turn wherein each of the trio grabs brief moments of individual expression while maintaining the whole. Well-written by Zaleski and well-performed by the group. You will want to listen to Zaleski’s coda over and over.
“Cheryl” is the hot Charlie Parker composition. Opening with Gatling-gun rim-shots, the trio just smokes this cover. Zaleski’s piano takes the saxophone voice and recreates the blues-bop beautifully. It is faithful to Parker’s original while still voicing a fresh and energetic expression.
Weinrib offers up a melodic drum solo and his play against the Douglas’ bass is equally enjoyable. It is the fastest 4 minutes and 10 seconds you will ever experience. Over too soon.
Johnny Green’s “Body and Soul” is one of the most romantic pieces on the album. Zaleski plays it in a lower key which adds to the great effect as Douglas plays with that familiar warmth that is enhanced by Weinrib’s slow brushes.
Zaleski adds a tremendous texture to the piece as his runs and cascades are gentle and disarming in their lyricism. A beautiful work of reinterpretation.
“REL” by vibraphonist Peter Schlamb may not be a standard but it might be in the future. It first appeared Schlamb’s debut album “Tinks” in 2014. It has a rock flavor that Zaleski uses to punch up while Douglas and Weinrib add jabs of their own.
Zaleski gets to throw in some Monk-ish touches now and again that bring a quick grin. It is a fun composition that has a softer, jazzier drum approach than to the original’s backbeat.
I have always loved Freddie Hubbard and have felt that “Arietis” was too undervalued as a work of great swing. Zaleski, Douglas and Weinrib use it as a launching platform for some of their hottest work. All three are just on fire in their treatment of such a great piece.
Zaleski has chosen his covers well. Dezron Douglas gets one of his best solos here.
“My Ideal” by Richard A. Whiting is the title track. It begins with a solo piano intro with the bass and drums smoothly assimilating into the melody.
The song is filled with gorgeous harmonic passages and bright shafts of light in the chords. A beautiful track that exemplifies Zaleski’s gift of expression.
The album ends as it began, with a Jerome Kern piece. “I’m Old Fashioned” is the closer and joining the trio is Ravi Coltrane on tenor saxophone. It just doesn’t get much better than Ravi.
Zaleski met Ravi Coltrane when Zaleski was called into some chart-reading sessions. Ravi was suitably impressed to call Zaleski back for some gigs.
The slow and lyrical introduction is a beautiful example of unity in diversity. Coltrane’s tone and phrasing is, of course, magnificent.
Zaleski’s arrangement of the piece is stellar. The tempo shifts allow Douglas and Weinrib to move from melody to percussion and back again.
All four of the artists are so tight and locked on target that this becomes the shout chorus of the entire album. Coltrane doesn’t just join in and grab the attention, he melds smoothly and effectively with all that has gone before. A wonderful conclusion to a wonderful album.
Glenn Zaleski has succeeded so often in his support of others' projects. Now his own project has proven why he is in such high demand.
“My Ideal” should mark the starting point of a band leader and pianist who deserves rapt attention. Glenn Zaleski not only deserves it, he commands it.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl
Visit Glenn Zaleski’s website at: http://www.glennzaleski.com
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