Press – Mark Zaleski Music 2017-11-14T18:03:14+00:00


A collection of album reviews, interviews and articles

Mark Zaleski’s “Days, Months, Years” – interview

November 12, 2017
Julliet Bats

Following up our review of The Mark Zaleski’s Band album release of “Days, Months, Years” at one of the most influential jazz clubs in the world – Smalls, here is what Mark shared about it exclusively for Flowers In A Gun!

Congrats on the new album! It’s been a while since you’ve been in the recording studio. How much of that time was spent putting “Days, Months, Years” together?

In many ways, we’ve been working on this record since our last 2007 studio recording. With this particular album, “Day, Months, Years” is a representation of everything we’ve been doing for the past 10 years. I think that the band evolution, both personally and musically, are displayed in every track. We’ve been playing these tunes for so long that we were able to take advantage of that relationship to the music when I decided to play both bass and woodwinds during the recording process. Since we plan on recording more frequently in future, this will likely be the only record where I take on two different roles. We really wanted to capture this unique relationship to each other and to this music by recording THIS record RIGHT now.

To me, the name suggests it’s an album to be enjoyed year round- what inspired it?
I love that imagery and I hope that people do enjoy it all year round for many years to come. One of the most fascinating aspect of art is how everyone perceives it differently! For me, “Days, Months, Years” is a commentary on what it takes to be a modern artist. Being a successful musician looks differently in your mind when you are young verses the reality of making it happen in the real world. Nothing is easy or straight forward and there is no finite moment when you’ve “made it”. You can’t skirt the responsibilities of being a contributing person to society in order to be an artist. You have to figure out how to navigate all of it. Being an artist, at least in the way that I’ve made sense of it, means putting in the days, months and years and never being done, always learning and growing.

You have quite the set of credentials when it comes to artists you’ve performed with. What would you look for in a band that your band might like to tour with in the future?
MZB certainly crosses over several different genres with jazz and rock being the most obvious examples so there would be a number of bands that we would love to tour with in the future. But if I had to narrow it down to one, the band Kneebody comes to mind immediately. Without knowing them personally, it seems as though their approach is similar to ours. It seems as though they work really hard at finding their own sound by playing together instead of relying on certain industry gimmicks. So, when you listen to them, they have a sound uniquely their own that could only be arrived at by investing time into their music and each other.

On that note, is there a specific place the band dreams about playing at?
As far as venues are concerned, we’ve played festivals for an audience of thousands and intimate clubs for only a handful of people. We are grateful for any audience that is willing to go along with us on our musical journey. My dream is that we could do what we do in the northeast but all over the world. I’d love to play venues on every continent and my only requirement is the hope that we can engage and connect with every person in the room.

And what would your favorite place that you’ve performed in be?
To date, I’m so proud to say that we played the 2016 Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival. As a native of Massachusetts, which has produced and is home to so many wonderful artists, it was a dream to play music for an event so close to my heart for my home state.

Your show reviews describe you as passionate and enthusiastic onstage- great qualities for good showmanship. Your band is obviously very tight knit! How long have you all known each other?
It’s not something that I think about but I’m happy to know that my love for what I do and the people that I do it with is communicated from the stage. As far as the member of my band go, since he is my younger brother, I met Glenn Zaleski when he was born and he is certainly the first person that I every played music with. I met Jon Bean, Danny Weller and Mark Cocheo during my time at The New England Conservatory from 2005-2007. Oscar Suchanek and I met in another band that I’m in called The Either/Orchestra. In addition to being spectacular musicians, everyone in this band are good people. I’m very lucky to be able to make music with these gentlemen.

Do you have any suggestions or recommendations for budding jazz lovers?
Yes! If you really want to fall in love with jazz, go see it live! People make recordings to capture something that was experienced in real life and, don’t get me wrong, there are thousands of important and influential recordings in existence. But, in my opinion, the energy and spontaneity that comes from a live jazz show is different from any other live performance art. Improvisation, just like in conversations, is not just the way the musicians communicate on stage but also the way that we communicate with the world.

November 8, 2017
Mike Greenblatt, The Aquarian Weekly

The Mark Zeleski Band’s terrific new, Days Months Years, is a must-hear project wherein the Berklee professor, 31, plays both sax and bass after touring with Jethro Tull. Ballads, bebop, Bird (“Big Foot”), Monk (“Epistrophy”), Latin and prog-jazz are the order of the day here and every track hits home hard.

Pamela Hines, WICN Radio’s Jazz New England

Mark Zaleski has created a body of work where we can now hear his evolution as a composer. ‘Days, Months, Years’ is aptly titled, for it describes a vast and textured musical landscape of what seems like a musical journey over a period of time. Within his compositions are linear explorations that bring us on a pathway of varied musical surfaces that keep us absorbed throughout the project.

Reuben Jackson, Host, Friday Night Jazz, Vermont Public Radio

The Mark Zaleski Band’s ‘Days , Months, Years’ is a subtle, swinging-and, at times, haunting-collection. Whether working their way through classics such as Thelonious Monk’s “Epistrophy”,or equally entrancing original material like “Mark In The Park”, the collection never fails to “make it new”- to quote the poet Ezra Pound, or stick with you like an autumn walk in the woods

MZB’s album release at Small’s Jazz Club

October 15, 2017
Julliet Bats

Friday night in New York City and there’s no better place to be than Small’s Jazz Club. Apparently, Mark Zaleski Band thought so too – and decided to host the release of their new album “Days, Months, Years” at this jazz lover’s paradise in a two part set on Oct. 6th. We were thrilled to be asked to both sets and review the show.

The first set started off with all members demonstrating their seamless cohesion as a band in an introduction that playfully seduced their crowd- throwing in numbers such as as Cannonball Adderley’s ‘Fun’ (“describing the fun you will have tonight, we hope”). The six piece band consisting of Mark’s brother Glenn and colleagues then moved to moodier territory with ‘The Moon’, described as Mark’s version of a love song – and a charming, recognizable ballad called ‘In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning’ (heard on Duet Suite, as performed by the brothers).

It was mentioned to the crowd that the band practiced organic improvisational playing and recording. This was made obvious by each member throughout the first set as they took turns surprising the crowd with short solos. At every instance when a member took a moment to display his skills, it became evident that not only did he completely absorb the attention of his audience- but of his band as well. The admiration of each of the band members for each other was at once endearing and inspiring. To finish the set, Small’s was treated to a slower version of Charlie Parker’s ‘Bigfoot/Thriving on a Riff’ (with the great player looking on from a frame in the back) and a whirlwind rendition of ‘Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough’, to much applause.

After a quick clearing and re-entering of the audience, the second set officially introduced “Days, Months, Years” by playing only songs from the album. By this point it has been established that the gentlemen have an electrifying presence that immediately captivates both the listener and viewer. The sound for this album ranges- encompassing a smooth, bluesy approach, a track or two with reminders of a bossa nova night to a bit more energy with a flirtation of funk. It makes sense then that the admirers of this band at the show were long time jazz lovers, students coming from class, an array of music enthusiasts on dates or solo and straining for a closer look at this group. Mark Zaleski band brings to the stage what every show-goer is looking for: excellent knowledge of their genre as shown through the love for their music, a contagious excitement that transforms the space, and great tunes.

Album Review: Days, Months, Years

October 14, 2017
Steve Feeney, The Arts Fuse

The Mark Zaleski Band has been around for over a decade, but Days, Months, Years is only their second album. Playing mostly original material, their long-term (and very personal) commitment to their music can be heard on these new tracks.

Most of the group’s members were trained at the New England Conservatory of Music. These are musicians who possess all the necessary sophistication to execute progressive mainstream jazz — and they do so with aplomb.

Massachusetts native Zaleski doubles on bass and sax, thanks to studio magic. He’s good on both instruments, but I’d rather hear him play one at a time. On “Mark in the Park,” his alto spins the vibe with a carefree expressiveness. Mark’s brother Glenn Zaleski contributes a bouncy piano line. A bit of drama develops with the arrival of a feisty drum solo from Oscar Suchanek, but we’re quickly returned back to a relaxed stroll home.

The leader’s “Cerina” opens with a boppish joust between Zaleski’s alto and Jon Bean’s tenor sax. An opening is made for Mark Cocheo’s guitar, showing that the band is more than comfortable entering the realm of the electrified. Bean later leans on the choppy rhythm to whip up some post-bop heat.

The title track takes off from a six-note theme. Bean gets another opportunity to wail on tenor before a nicely calm close.

“Katie’s Song” gives us Zaleski approximating some of the intense work contributed by Miles Davis’s soprano sidemen during the master’s electric period (Dave Liebman? Steve Grossman?). Cocheo knows the territory well, and in one glorious central passage brings all the frenzy together.

A pair of classics, Thelonious Monk’s “Epistrophy” and Charlie Parker’s “Big Foot,” complete the disc. The former serves as a trampoline for another electric excursion from Cocheo, backed by Glenn Zaleski on Wurlitzer keyboard. Danny Weller, the band’s regular bassist, is showcased on the Parker tune before Zaleski’s alto plays the bluesy hell out of the piece in a rough and tough trio setting that is accompanied by Suchanek’s rumble and crash.

Mark Zaleski Band brings fresh take on jazz-rock to Old Lyme Saturday

October 4, 2017
Rick Koster, theday

Without getting too muddled in arcana, jazz-rock fusion was essentially born with Miles Davis on his “Bitches Brew” recording, using traditional rock rhythms as the anchor for free-flight melodic explorations, and subsequent bands like the Tony Williams Lifetime, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, Return to Forever and Soft Machine further explored the idea.
The Mark Zaleski Band, which plays Saturday in Old Lyme at the Side Door Jazz Club, is an act that fuses their conservatory jazz with a slightly different approach to rock, coming at the latter from the stylistic and melodic flourishes of Zappa, Zeppelin, Hendrix and The Beatles. There are even some instrumental prog-esque moments — ponder Gentle Giant’s “On Reflection” to get an idea — and all of these elements make the Zaleski band’s debut album “Days, Months, Years” an exhilarating, fresh and dynamics-happy listening experience.
Original tunes like “Cerina” and “Katie’s Song” boil with tension, flow, idea and melody, and their arrangements of Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker material are double-take-inducing. Onstage, this should be amazing.

Album Review: Days, Months, Years

September 29, 2017
Midwest Records

Days, Months, Years: Recording again after a decade away from the studio, this crew has been together the whole time and the playing shows it’s as tight as it gets. Free jazz lite, this bunch loves their sonic freedom but doesn’t want to lose any listeners in the process. The kind of tunes that sound like they would really kill it live, the bass playing sax man uses both halves of his brain to proper advantage to making it all work right. Tasty stuff made for sitting down listening but not sitting idly while it plays. Well done.

Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival

October 9, 2016

Returning to the stages of the Festival, (as the sun was dipping below the horizon), the heat was turned up by two bands intent on making the day last longer. First, there were the big unfurling sounds of the Mark Zaleski Band, led by saxophonist Zaleski, who is another local gem of the Boston jazz scene, (last written about here as a member of the action-packed Berklee-based big band led by Ayn Inserto- Zaleski is a roving pioneer of the alto sax and at his performance at the Festival, he attacked his solos with great bravado and open-mindedness. On one tune he squealed and shook up high with great bluesy force (in combination with a slippery solo by pianist Glenn Zaleski) and on another cut he split duties with tenor saxophonist Jon Bean on a frenetic staccato-laced adventure over the entire range of his instrument that sent the crowd into a roar of approval.

Album Review: Duet Suite

February 15, 2011
Mark Saleski,

One of the markers of high-level instrumental interplay is the perception of intimacy. We see this again & again in review language—that the musicians seemed as though they were “of one mind,” that their communication was “telepathic.”

There are plenty of recorded examples that come to mind: Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock’s An Evening With…, Emphasis, Stuttgart by the Jimmy Giuffre 3 (with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow), and especially the impromptu live Max & Dizzy: Paris 1989, during which the jazz legends seemed to conjugate the entire history of be-bop through their improvisations (a lot of critics hated that record, I loved it).

These intimacies are grown from long-term relationships developed over years of shared experience. But what could be more intimate than the bond between two brothers? Mark and Glenn Zaleski answer that question on Duet Suite, where the ideas flow around each other beautifully on a program that surprises with a somewhat unusual musical story arc.

Combinations of “in” and “out” styles on a single recording usually fall into the deconstruction mode. If you listen to what David S. Ware does with “The Way We Were” (on Go See The World), you’ll know what I’m getting at. The original theme is first presented, with improvisations gradually descending into delicious chaos. Perhaps the most famous example is Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things.” This construct is generally more successful than the use of a rogue “out” song placed within an otherwise straight program. Sure, there are exceptions (Pat Metheny’s “The Calling” on Rejoicing comes to mind), but these kinds of intersections can lead to awkward moments as the transitions can be problematic.

The Zaleski brothers (Glenn on piano, Mark on alto & soprano saxophones and clarinet) try an alternate approach: employing variations on a “out” theme (Glenn’s composition “Two Days”) as the glue that holds together a collection of standards by the likes of Richard Rogers (“My Heart Stood Still”) , Mercer Ellington (“Things Ain’t What They Used To Be”), Horace Silver (“Strollin'”), Wayne Shorter (“Ana Maria”), and David Mann (“In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning”). The standards on Duet Suite show one side of the brother’s musical history. It’s obvious that they’ve been playing these songs for years and still love them deeply. Check out the bluesy interchanges throughout “How Deep Is The Ocean,” with the ideas passed back and forth in an effortless manner. That’s the key here, as the brothers not only seem to complete each other’s thoughts, but also manage to never overplay, to never get in their partner’s way.

And that characteristic is also evident on the “out” pieces. While the style of play is obviously more kinetic (Glenn’s frenetic piano runs beneath Mark’s ostinato-cum-meltdown on “Duet Suite: Deadline”—too much fun), the Zaleski’s never sound like they’ve lost focus. There are even echoes of the standards to come on the opening “Duet Suite: Daybreak.” Pairs of descending runs start the piece, but it slowly heads toward a hopeful, almost romantic conclusion. The closing “Duet Suite: Nightbreak” brings it all together, with a middle section featuring chiming piano and darting sax lines, ending with a pensive reprise of the original theme.

Disclaimer: Mark and Glenn Zaleski—no relation to me…except that the three of us share the common bond of music. A sappy cliché to be sure, but there are times during Duet Suite that I felt drawn in to their musical thoughts. That’s not a perception of intimacy, that’s reality.

Versatile Zaleski Bound to Please at Pine Hills

September 11, 2009
Jay N. Miller, The Patriot Ledger

Living in Massachusetts, going to school at the New England Conservatory, and forging his jazz career, Mark Zaleski never figured his musical itinerary would include backing everyone from Joan Rivers to Jethro Tull.

But that’s exactly the kind of versatility that makes the Mark Zaleski Band one of the more compelling jazz-rock fusion groups on the contemporary scene, and why the sextet led by the 24-year old saxophonist should be a big hit at this weekend’s free Pinehills Jazz & Blues Festival in Plymouth.

The Zaleski group will be playing on the Sunday afternoon (1-5 p.m.) session, along with the swing band Rocco and the Stompers, and genre-busting harpist Deborah Henson-Conant. Saturday’s lineup, also 1-5 p.m., skews more towards blues with iconic guitarist Duke Robillard, singer Sugar Ray Norcia and the Bluetones, and Next Exit.

“The first music I ever listened to was probably my father’s Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd albums,” said Zaleski from his Jamaica Plain studio.

“Then, I never went to a special music school, just a public high school when Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Radiohead were the sounds everybody listened to. I had been playing sax in school bands from the fourth grade on, but I never got serious about it high school, after one of my private teachers turned me on to Cannonball Adderley. ‘That’s what a saxophone can sound like?’ I said, and I was hooked from then on. But it’s not like all my rock influences can just go away–all those other sounds are still a big part of me right now. Even today, my current rotation for my IPod is about equally split between Radiohead and (jazzman) Chris Potter.”

Zaleski’s burgeoning ability as a high schooler got him noticed in the jazz world, and he was soon across the country, at the Brubeck Institute, a special jazz program at the University of the Pacific for students 18 and 19 years old. After two years there, Zaleski came back east and graduated from the N.E. Conservatory, but the California experience was profoundly influential. Not to mention, that’s where he found himself chatting about golf with Clint Eastwood.

“Clint is a major donor to the Brubeck Institute, as well as a big jazz fan,” Zaleski pointed out. “He helped get us a spot on the Monterrey Jazz Festival. But at this school event where we all got to meet him, I was trying to think of something original to say to him, and since I worked at a golf club in high school and knew he loved to golf, I asked him how he was hitting them. He stopped and began telling me he’d been too busy shooting ‘Million Dollar Baby’ that year to play much, and went into great detail about how his short game was maddeningly inconsistent.”

Like many jazz musicians these days, Zaleski has found he has to wear many hats to make a living. He’s adept at playing most woodwind instruments, saxes, flute and clarinet, and also plays bass. As a bassist, he’s just joined the road band of folk artist Guy Mendilow, but it was as a versatile woodwind player that he got to mix with Jethro Tull and Joan Rivers.

“Because I can double up on other instruments, I’ve been asked to do a lot of random touring, with backing orchestras,” said Zaleski. “I was part of the backing orchestra on that Jethro Tull tour, and playing with them was certainly not something I had ever envisioned as a young lad growing up. (Tull frontman) Ian Anderson is an amazing musician and it was so interesting to see him at work. All the woodwinds are related, of course, so I’m very interested in flute, and Ian Anderson is probably the only person who’s ever made a whole career of being a rock ‘n’ roll flutist. He doesn’t just do a solo here and there–it’s his whole career. To watch him perform every night, and see how he prepares and what he does the same every night, as well as what he does differently every night, was just invaluable.”

“The Joan Rivers gigs were a similar thing, where she needed a backing orchestra for shows at the Cutler Majestic Theater in Boston,” Zaleski added. “The difference was that we were part of an ongoing gag, where the orchestra was supposed to be on strike. Every time she turned and asked us to play something, we had to ignore her, not react, and remain absolutely silent. Then, for the night’s big finale we actually did play one song. It was fun in a weird way, definitely a unique gig. Despite her TV persona, Joan Rivers was very nice backstage, and took a real interest in what we were all doing in our musical careers.”

And making Zaleski even more versatile is his work as a teacher, where he has found he loves working with kids. For the past few years Zaleski has worked teaching at Brookline High’s Music Extension School, and this fall he’s also starting work in a similar program at Milton High.

“Both programs involve private lessons for the kids who are in the high school, or elementary school bands,” Zaleski explained. “Like most musicians I began doing the teaching as a way to help make ends meet. But I’ve found that in some way I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. I’m absolutely falling for it, because it is exhilerating in a different way. Not everybody you have will be the next John Coltrane, but with one little thing they can find the inspiration to become a lifelong music fan. And, there’s no doubt, the kids teach me a lot of things too.”

Zaleski still hasn’t lost his desire to make a name as an original jazzman however, and to that end he managed to book a 13-date, two-week tour of the West Coast for his sextet this summer. In this economy, club dates for a new jazz band are not easily secured, but the Zaleski band – which includes his brother Glenn on piano – has a sound so wide-ranging it pulls in rock, funk, jamband, and pop fans with ease.

“It is a difficult time to find club dates,” Zaleski admitted. “But I also don’t like to look at the band as solely a jazz group. Yes, we are, in the sense that we have improvised solos on every tune, and we do make a point of making every set-list at random, and taking solos at random so you never see the same show two nights in a row.

And yes, we are an instrumental band, and we work from an acoustic base of piano and sax. But even people like Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley played music with a lot of grooves in it, and so do we. We have a great crossover style, with funk, rock, and even indie rock elements in it.”

“It can be a struggle to get younger people out to a jazz show,” Zaleski continued. “But we have found that as soon as you do, they really get into it. I think it just sounds fresh to them. This music is not publicized much by mass media now, so young people look on it as brand new. We believe any fan of popular music can find something to relate to in our music. And we want people to relate to our music. In jazz you might have to listen more carefully, and you don’t get the easy impact of a lyric telling you what to think, but hopefully our impact goes deeper and means more to you.”

And that kind of all-embracing style fits right in with the philosophy of the Pinehills festival, which always offers a broad mix of styles. The Rocco and the Stompers octet for example, which also includes Zaleski and two other members of his band, seeks to update 1930’s style swing.

“On paper this Sunday lineup is all over the place,” Zaleski laughed. “But we are all playing original music. Having a bunch of similar bands would be boring.”

And like almost everyone on the Pinehills roster this year, no one will ever accuse the Mark Zaleski Band of being boring.

Exploring the Theory of Relativity

August 2, 2009
Tony Sauro,

Mark and Glenn Zaleski have harmonized closely all of their lives.

“We get along great,” Mark said. “I don’t know what it is.”

The musically inclined brothers, who blend their jazz skills in the Mark Zaleski Band, also took some harmonic – and very positive – notes at University of the Pacific’s Brubeck Institute.

“It was the first time in my musical career I really was exposed to players at such an extremely high level,” said Glenn Zaleski, a pianist whose inspiration was Dave Brubeck, the Institute’s namesake. “Prior to that, I didn’t think people my age could play at this level. I was totally blown away.”

“One thing I heard all the time as a goal is to find your own voice,” said Mark, who plays alto and soprano saxophone. “You’re not supposed to sound like Dave (Brubeck) or Christian (McBride), Cannonball (Adderley) or Bird (Charlie Parker).”

Now, the siblings are passing the Institute’s test by channeling their talent, knowledge, organizational skills, business savvy, hard work and true brotherhood into musical careers.

Mark, 24, and Glenn, 21, studied at the Brubeck Institute before completing their college degrees and starting their jazz careers.

“I feel this project is my voice in music,” Mark said of his band’s self-tilted 2008 debut album. “It’s kind of a jazz-slash-modern rock instrumental fusion sort of group. It’s still kind of developing.”

“We’re never really feuding,” said Glenn, who plays piano on five of the nine tracks on “The Mark Zaleski Band.” “We’ve always been very cooperative and supportive and helpful. I never remember having any serious fights.”

The Zaleskis’ quintet performs in San Jose, Santa Rosa and San Francisco this week.

Glenn will miss Wednesday’s San Francisco show for another gig: his third year of tutoring as one of 13 guest artists at the Brubeck Institute’s Summer Jazz Colony, which runs Aug. 9-14. Nineteen students from around the country were selected to participate.

Glenn followed his brother to Pacific, starting with a week at the summer colony as a high school junior in 2004.

“They were among the most responsible, dependable and hard-working young people,” said Steve Anderson, the Brubeck Institute’s director since 2005 who’s been involved since the program’s inception eight years ago. “They both grew tremendously, musically, when they were here and have continued to do so. They were always very purposeful and willing to accept the challenge.”

So much so that Glenn was the first teenager invited back as a Summer Colony tutor in 2007. This year, he’ll help with music theory, teach a piano class and provide rhythmic accompaniment for vocalists.

“As much as I learned there as a student, I’m certainly learning even more coming back as a teacher,” Glenn said with obvious enthusiasm. “Age hasn’t made much of a difference. If you play well, communicate and take yourself and everyone around you seriously and treat them with respect, that’s reciprocated.”

That’s a fairly accurate characterization of the brothers’ development – fraternally and musically.

Born in Boylston, Mass. (“We don’t have a history of family music-making,” Mark said), they grew up in Worcester, taking slightly different but supportive musical routes.

Mark started out on clarinet, though he thought the saxophone “looked kinda cool” and “put up a really big stink” when his dad wouldn’t buy him one. After a year of serious practice, his father followed through on a promise and Mark got his sax.

In third grade, he watched a concert by his mother’s special-education students and discovered the “concept of kids my own age not only making noise, but making music and having fun. It looked cool.”

As a teenager, he was a fan of the Bay Area’s Metallica and classic rock, but found jazz inspiration in the sax stylings of Adderley, John Coltrane and Michael Brecker.

“I was always kind of a saxophone head,” said Mark, who formed his own Eastern Jazz Project in ninth grade.

Meanwhile, Glenn was getting an early education in Brubeck, the 88-year-old Concord native, jazz piano legend and Pacific graduate.

“The first jazz music I ever listened to was ‘The Dave Brubeck Jazz Collection,’ ” Mark said. “I really got into it in eighth grade. I saw him play live in Worcester. He really blew me away. I bought every Dave Brubeck CD I could find and bought his vinyl LPs on eBay.

“I have a bunch of his piano transcription books. He was my biggest influence when I was starting to learn about jazz.”

As a junior and senior at Tahanto Regional High School, Glenn was a member of the Massachusetts all-state jazz band.

“I had a great private teacher who gave me the foundation for everything I do know,” he said.

The brothers developed harmoniously.

“Sometimes, we were ready to butt heads,” Mark said with a laugh. “But we always had a really strong mutual relationship. We both practiced a lot. We ate dinner, watched TV, played games and went to our rooms and practiced.

“When we performed together, it just clicked. I can’t really explain it. He always makes me sound my best and I have a similar influence on him.”

Neither had heard of Pacific or the Brubeck Institute until a friend who had attended the Summer Colony mentioned the Institute to Mark.

“I sent in an audition tape on kind of a whim,” Mark said. “I got a call and, next thing I know, I’m auditioning at Yoshi’s (in Oakland) with (bassist) Christian McBride watching. I guess I got lucky. I was almost so confident I wasn’t gonna get it that I wasn’t nervous all. I just played. Meanwhile you’re 18. I mean, wow.”

He attended the Brubeck Institute from 2003-05 and became the first alto sax player in its student quintet (which became a sextet to accommodate his talent).

Mark also studied flute, other woodwinds and bass. After his two-year program at Pacific, he graduated from Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music and now lives in Jamaica Plains, Mass.

In addition to forming his own band and touring, his versatility has helped him stay busy as a “freelancer” in big bands, chamber groups, “half-folk, half-world music” and as a double-bass player in jazz bands.

His Brubeck Institute experience also nurtured the expertise – and confidence – required for Mark to tour with Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull, a veteran English classic-rock band, in 2006.

“No audience is more intimidating than some of those at the Brubeck Institute,” said Mark, who played bass and clarinet (including a clarinet solo on “Mother Goose”) in Anderson’s orchestral arrangements of Tull songs. “Not even at Jethro Tull shows.”

Though he aspires to achieve a level of instrumental excellence, Mark said, “I feel like I’m a strong performer in some ways. I feel I’m meant to be on stage. I’ll kinda be happy doing anything as long as music’s around. If I had to choose in a perfect world, I’d be a band leader. It feel like it’s my calling.”

Following Mark’s example, Glenn got an earlier start by attending the Summer Colony in 2004 and studying in the two-year program from 2005-07.

In May, he graduated from the New School for Music in New York’s Greenwich Village.

Fulfilling another brotherly aspect of the Institute’s mission, Glenn has maintained close contact with fellow alumni. Sax player Lucas Pino, 23, and trumpeter Brian Chahley, 21, also New School grads, are his roommates in Brooklyn and play in a jazz combo with him.

“Most of the playing I’ve done this summer has been with alums,” Glenn said, including drummer Collin Stanhan and bassist Chris Smith.

Except for Stanhan, they played together when the Brubeck Institute Quintet was named the country’s best college combo in Downbeat magazine in 2007.

The Zaleski brothers are a noteworthy example of the Brubeck Institute achieving its goals, to perpetuate the legacy and standards of Brubeck.

“It was important because it raised my expectations of what was possible,” Glenn said. “The faculty was on another planet. I’d heard people could play music that well. I never experienced it firsthand.”

“The Brubeck Institute gives you the opportunity for essentially the world’s best to hear you at a really young age,” Mark said. “Handling that kind of pressure? A lot of people don’t get to do that.”

Institute administrators hope they can add more talented musicians such as Glenn Zaleski to the Summer Colony tutoring staff.

“Over time, we’re gonna work more of these (people) in,” Anderson said. “It’s very, very important. We want to recognize those who go out and do phenomenal jobs as young musicians.”

“I’m looking forward just to meeting new people and new talent and being reminded of the talent renewing itself,” Glenn said.

That’s after he adds a little more rhythm to his and Mark’s harmonious history.

Table Talk With Mark Zaleski

September 11, 2009

It was a gorgeous Indian summer afternoon, there were root beer floats on the table, and Mark Zaleski was cracking up about how he and the members of his band somehow wound up all smushed in the back of a van in California. What more could you ask for when it comes to a pleasant setting for an interview? Jessie and I met up with Mark for a quick snack and a quick chat at Cafe Luna in Central, and this meeting’s been a long time coming: I’ve been keeping tabs on the happenings of the Mark Zaleski Band for nearly a year now, and for some reason their innovative jazz shows never seemed to sync up with my schedule until now. I mean, seriously: Legit jazz? A local act? A bunch of really nice dudes who love Boston and love making music together? There aren’t a lot of bands like the Mark Zaleski Band for those reasons, and jazz ensembles who appeal to the student population of this city outside of the music aficionados at Berklee and the NEC are hard to come by.

With new material in the works and the first of a few homecoming shows behind them, the Mark Zaleski Band will be playing in Providence on September 11th at Tazzas, and again on September 13th in Plymouth for Jazz and Blues on the Hill at the Pinehills. Seeing as the three of us are city creatures at the mercy of the MBTA, we’re going to be waiting until the MZB makes an appearance within city limits sometime soon, but we strongly, strongly encourage a small roadtrip to check out an up-and-coming local jazz band with the chops for good form ont he horns and a taste for rock n’ roll.

-Hilary Hughes

What’s your favorite breakfast cereal?

Honey Nut Cheerios. Is that boring? I love Honey Nut Cheerios. I always want bananas in my cereal, too. My ideal cereal is Honey Nut Cheerios with bananas.

Who would you rather punch in the face: Long Duk Dong from “Sixteen Candles”, or Mouth from “The Goonies”?

I’ve never seen “Sixteen Candles.” I’ll go with Long Duk Dong, I guess.

If you were a kitchen appliance, what would you be?

A coffee maker.

You go to bed, wake up, walk into the bathroom to brush your teeth, and you look in the mirror and you realize that you’ve turned into one of Jim Henson’s Muppets overnight. Which Muppet are you?

Grover. As soon as you asked that Grover came to mind, for some reason. Maybe I just have the blues. (Laughs)

Say you have a crazy night, you black out, and you wake up feeling like crap the next morning and you realize… you got a tattoo. What’d you get inked?

I would get an empty music staff on the inside of my arm. I take notes on my hand a lot, but if I could actually write melodies and stuff? That would be really cool.

Would you rather be a rodeo clown or a sumo wrestler?

I would definitely like to be both. I’d rather be a sumo wrestler that’s quick enough to move around that rodeo!

If you were a particular style of facial hair, what would you be?

I would be a soul patch.

If you were a type of cheese, which cheese would you be?

Sharp cheddar. Sharp cheddar is bold, man. I want that kind of cheddar that as soon as you put it in your mouth your mouth, like, EXPLODES. That’s the kind of effect I want to have on people (laughs).


Todd Rundgren’s “Bang On The Drum All Day.”

What’s your favorite word?


Hi Mark!


So, what’s your deal? Give us a brief bio for Mark Zaleski.

Well, I’m 24 years old and I’m originally from Boylston, Massachusetts. I currently reside in Jamaica Plain, over by Green Street.

Do you go to City Feed and Supply all the time?

I go to City Feed often. I enjoy the Farmer’s Lunch sandwich every now and again. It’s the best. Something about the mustard they use is… delicious.

Yeah, totally worth the near ten bucks you pay for it… Anyways, back to you! Can you bring us through your background in music?

The first instrument I played was the clarinet and that was in the fourth grade. I was always drawn to the saxophone, but I was the first person in the family to start playing music or have some interest in it. My mom’s a high school teacher and I saw a school band play and I thought it was cool that young kids were making noise with stuff. I didn’t have some deep, jazz roots or anything. I saw that happening and I wanted to be a part of it. My dad didn’t want to rent a saxophone, and he had an old clarinet in the attic or something like that, so, expecting that I would quit, he said, “If you play this for a year, I’ll buy you a saxophone.” I guess I got pretty good at it, and then I picked up the saxophone and it was a little bit easier from there. I guess it was sort of a blessing in disguise because one of the things I really enjoy doing is the multiple instrument thing. If my dad didn’t make me play an instrument I didn’t want to play that would never have happened (laughs).

Let’s talk about the other guys you play with. How did this incarnation of the Mark Zaleski Band come to be?

The sax player, John, and I went to school together at the New England Conservatory of Music. He and the drummer, Tyson, and the bass player, Will, were all students at NEC. We were kind of all hanging out together before we actually played music together and I felt like we all just got along and go out for beers. A lot of times we’d be like, “Hey! We all play, right here! Let’s make a band! Let’s make it happen!” At the time, Will was still in high school, but he’s a Massachusetts guy and I knew him and I knew he was really great, and he ended up coming to NEC the year after he started playing with the band. My brother, Glen, he’s the piano player and I guess we’ve been playing together for a while. (Laughs)

Let’s talk about the creative process behind the music of the Mark Zaleski band. Does the band collaborate when it comes to writing, or does someone head up the majority of the composing or the arrangement of tunes?

We all come from this kind of standard jazz tradition where there’s a certain repertoire of tunes. Have you ever been to Wally’s?


At Wally’s on a Friday or Saturday night, you’ll notice deep in the corner of the room that there are all these guys sitting with horns and stuff like that, and they’re basically able to play any of the tunes they call. It’s kind of a tradition: You don’t ask to sit there, you just go up and it’s really kind of intense and the music is very, very hard, so it’s kind of different than a rock thing because you kind of have to prove yourself. That’s the tradition that everyone in this band has come up in. For me, my background also includes a lot of rock: When I was in high school I played electric guitar and a little bit of bass in some rock bands. I’ve been to a share of Dave Matthews concerts and Metallica shows, Radiohead… there’s always been this kind of correlation for me between classic rock and modern rock and jazz. Once I started organizing the same group all the time, what sort of came out in my writing was to try and make a rock band with a jazz interpretation. If I want to recreate a moment, it’ll come out in a more rock-oriented song but it’ll be in 7/4 time as opposed to 4/4 time and I guess that comes from my training in jazz. It’s not like I was just trying to make it weird; that’s the sound that just came in my head.

Who would you credit as creative influences? Who can we directly refer to for the cultivation of Mark Zaleski’s sound?

As far as saxophone players are concerned with the actual playing aspect, I have a lot of love for Cannonball Adderley. He’s kind of the number one first influence. I love John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon and Johnny Hodges, even Marshall Royal, Chris Potter, stuff like that. For songwriting stuff? I’ve gone through a lot of phases listening to completely different people but the most major of them are probably are John Coltrane, Cannonball Atterley, Radiohead, Stevie Wonder, and I might go to the extent of saying Jimi Hendrix, too.

You’ve been touring behind your most recent release with a big West Coast push. How did that go, and how has that impacted how you play?

It’s funny: I mean, I was kind of in the position for that tour where I wasn’t just a musician, you know, just showing up and playing. I also had this role as the manager and organizer and booking agent and just doing anything that comes along. I definitely felt overwhelmed with details at times. It was really interesting for me, because I’ve never been in the position where I’ve had such little time to worry about music. Like any other band doing a first out of town push, we had a car break down, we had a computer get stolen, window glass got broken, all these little things that come into play that just, you know, happened while all the while we were trying to promote the show and contact people in twelve different places you’ve never been before. We’ve also never played twelve days in a row one after another before either, and by the time it was over I feel like we had almost a completely different band. It definitely is something that gels together. Even based on the fact that we spent so much time together and so much time in really sometimes not the best of conditions, squeezing into someone’s house to crash or six guys in one hotel room-

What, was there a lot of spooning?

There’s no comment on that. (Laughs) It’s amazing how well we got to know each other. The reason why I knew we could do it is because we get along so well and it would be impossible to have personality conflicts with this group of people. Even when stuff was going horribly wrong, everyone was like, “Hey, it’s cool.” Doing it made me understand that this is a group of people I want to have around.

That’s a great way to come to that conclusion, especially seeing as it would be a shitty way if you realized that you DIDN’T want to have these guys around.

Right! I feel like people have that experience before and I’m so grateful that we had the opposite, you know? Sometimes four people would show up at shows, and then sometimes a hundred people would show up at shows. You just don’t know because you’re not out there and you don’t have as much control as you would in your city.

What’s the most ridiculous thing that happened to the Mark Zaleski Band on tour?

Well, at one point… okay. We’re in San Jose, we just played a show – we hustled up from LA, like a six-hour drive, almost late for the show to arrive to play for about two people. We figured “Oh, it’s worth it”, and we get out to the car and Danny’s car wouldn’t start. We were just taking only two cars with six guys and all their luggage and equipment around, and it was already a tight ride, so it was Sunday night and it was like 11pm and it wasn’t like we could get anything done but get it towed. Our next stop was San Francisco, which was about 50 miles away, and the only thing we could do outside of sleep in this parking lot was to get all six guys, all the drums, and all the equipment into one car and at one point, there were actually four or five guys in the back of the car. Glen was pretty much in my lap. All that? For a show for two people? (Laughs) This is really paying your dues. I did wind up covering the West Coast three times – Tyson, the drummer, is originally from Portland, Oregon, and the bass player’s from San Diego, so in order to get to the first show of the tour in LA, I flew out to Portland and drove down with Tyson, which is a solid two-day drive, and then we brought the tour up to Seattle, and after that I drove down the coast again to fly out of LA. When I finally calculated the miles, I clocked in at over 5,000 miles of traveling in 10 days or something like that. I look back on it and I feel like I was out of my fucking mind, but one thing I like about what we’re doing is that I take a lot of pride in the fact that we don’t need the help and we do everything on our own. People are looking for agencies, or management, or record labels to help out. I’m sure people have more experience than I do, but from what I can tell, as long as we keep doing what we’re doing we’ll have that control. Whatever we are, whether people like us or don’t, I don’t think we sound like anyone else. For better or worse it’s not my place to say, when you listen to us, if you like it, it’s the only place to get it.

The past couple of shows that you’ve played since coming back from the West Coast, how has it been? How was your homecoming show at Ryles?

It was great. Playing at Ryles, that and playing over at the Alchemist Lounge in Jamaica Plain – Ryles is where we played our first gig and JP is where we all live, or where some of us used to live, it’s kind of really close to home. We go to the Alchemist to hang out. Ryles has always had great music for years and it’s one of the more well known jazz spots in Boston, so this time around, we’re very comfortable there. When you show up at new places, you don’t know what to expect: You don’t know what to expect for sound, what to expect as an audience reaction, and you don’t really care to some extent, but it’s nice to know, especially after all kinds of intense “What ifs?” in terms of what’s gonna happen, we know that our experience at Ryles is going to be great. People seem to like us there, and the sound person knows us there, so we don’t have to spend a lot of time talking sound before the show. We had a really good time.

Do you have any other favorite Boston venues, besides Ryles and the Alchemist Lounge?

I used to really like Matt Murphy’s, which doesn’t have live music anymore. I’m bummed about it. When people came in from out of town and want to see live music, every day they’d have live music or an event of any type at Matt Murphy’s. Any given day it would always be really good, and playing in there, there were always good people who were really receptive and there was no cover charge. It’s not the most acoustically sound room and it’s not what you’d expect, so, I like Ryles, I like the Alchemist, and I used to really like Matt Murphy’s, and I like Wally’s. Wally’s isn’t the type of place where my band would play a show, but I just think it’s kind of unique in that everyday you’re going to find some of the best players in Boston there. It always has this unique jam session-type vibe where everyone’s tucked in a corner and you can’t get in the way of the fire door and it’s narrow and it’s always crowded and there’s something about the musical vibe there that I feel is really unique to Boston.

Are there any acts in Boston that you’re following, or that you’d especially love to share a bill with?

You know, within Boston, we haven’t shared a lot of bills with people, and if we have it’s been pretty drastically different. I’ve always felt like Lake Street Dive is a band that no one else has, you know? They were all these kids around school and stuff just really took off for them and they’re just more and more creative all the time. Even with their covers they’re creative all the time! Every time they come out with something new, I have to hear it. Whether it’s a Boston band or not, I don’t know a lot of bands that I do that with. If I was to say what my favorite Boston band is, every time I get a Facebook invite from Lake Street Dive I make a note of it. I can’t think of … yeah. By and large, without a doubt it would be those guys.

What are you listening to right now?

When I was walking over here I was listening to some Stevie Wonder on my iPod. It just came off “Signed Sealed Delivered” and I also listened to “The Secret Life of Plants”. I’ve been checking out an album by a trumpet player named Red Rodney, lately, too, called Get It Now.

What’s your most recent musical discovery? What would we find on the “Recently Added” list on your iPod?

Honestly, it was an Incubus record, Make Yourself, I think. Our bass player played it for me on tour, actually. Going back into it, that was one thing about spending a lot of time with musicians that you like to play with. We had so much driving time and so much listening time that a lot of albums got passed around. But yeah, all that old Incubus, you listen to everyone’s favorite albums beyond what they’re listening to now after awhile.

So, what’s up next for the Mark Zaleski Band? You’ve got some gigs coming up, but do you plan on heading back into the studio anytime in the near future?

We’re definitely ready to record another album. The band has got a repertoire now because we’ve been playing together so much, so it’s coming. I’ll go ahead and say in the next year that there’ll be a new record (laughs). There are more plans to tour, again on the West Coast and elsewhere in the country. I love doing the New England thing and I love it here, but I want more people to know about what’s going on with the Mark Zaleski Band. We just want to travel all over the place, as much as we can.

Finding Jazz at a Cool Place

August 22, 2009
Chris Barton, The Los Angeles Times

Excerpt: On a recent Saturday, young saxophonist Mark Zaleski kept a small cluster of tables bobbing with his driving take on jazz, which includes touches of groove-heavy post-rock. Zaleski, a regular on the Boston and New York circuits with a variety of ensembles, booked his own tour from the other side of the country.

“At one point last year I pulled all of my West Coast resources together and asked them all about where they played locally and figured out where they had good experiences,” Zaleski said in an e-mail. “Having access to the Internet can help me figure out where other musicians like us perform, and I can evaluate whether we would be a good fit for the club.”

Deciding where a musician might fit with a venue or its vision of jazz is a common challenge, and one that frequently inspires artists to go their own way.


December 9, 2008
Mark Saleski,

RATING: 90/100
Music writers are used to artist queries. “Hi, I’m John Q. Polytonal, and I was wondering if you’d be interested in reviewing my new CD ….” Sure, I get them all the time. But it’s weird when the artist’s name seems so, uhm … familiar. The truth of the matter is that me and Mark Zaleski are not related, though I must admit I had my fingers crossed as to the quality of his music. I mean, the opportunity to have fun with the name would have vaporized if the music leaned toward the Kenny G end of things. Let’s face it, all of those “poodle hairdo” and golf jokes have gotten stale.

The happy news is that Mark Zaleski and his band have a lot interesting things to say. “Care Free” flies out of the gate with the rhythm section setting up a fast-moving vamp over which the saxes wind their theme.

Boston Phoenix – Up and Coming

July 31, 2008
Boston Phoenix

Still only his early 20s, Boylston (it’s near Worcester) sax man MARK ZALESKI has made inroads as a student at the highly competitive Brubeck Institute and at New England Conservatory, in the meantime racking up gigs with Brubeck père Dave, bass genius Christian McBride, and the touring orchestra of Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson. And the Boston outfit he leads (with his brother Glenn on piano) has a fresh, aggressive edge, happy to play straight-ahead swing with bit, or roil around in a rock-tinged original number like “ . . . and Danced” with Ken Vandermark–like abandon.

Boston Phoenix

January 23, 2008
Jim Sullivan, Boston Phoenix

MARK ZALESKI is only 22, but the saxophonist, who just began his final semester at New England Conservatory, has played with both Dave Brubeck and Jethro Tull. He studied at Brubeck’s Institute in California, and in 2006 he played clarinet in an orchestra Tull took on tour. Nice credentials. But he’s proudest of his all-NEC-based sextet, the Mark Zaleski Band, who released a homonymous CD late last year that’s solid bebop and swing with impressive improv chops. “Everyone comes from a jazz background,” he says, “but we also fit into the modern jam-band category. I don’t want to alter the music, but I’d like to the change the face of the [jam-band] field. One of the things Brubeck advised was, ‘Do what’s cool for you; don’t copy.’ Same at NEC. Doing something distinctly your own is embraced.”

The Mark Zaleski Band Transcends Standard in its New Album

January 21, 2008
Anne Gregory, NEC Penguin

Procuring an ensemble where both talent and amity are attributes is a rare find in today’s musical community. The Mark Zaleski Band is one such group that not only draws from an extraordinary pool of expertise but also possesses a high level of enthusiasm. “These are all people I like to be around who just happen to be great at what they do,” Zaleski says of the band’s members. Mark Zaleski, on alto saxophone, wanted to create a group of reliable, talented musician and subsequently compiled several colleagues with whom he’s known and trusted for several years.

Zaleski has high ambitions for the group, with a central objective being promotion of his band through audiences of the Boston college community, “I really like to play for younger people, and the band responds to that well.” By developing a larger fan base with college students, Zaleski hopes to foster a greater appreciation for jazz music in a time when venues have become more and more scarce. The band has already performed for several student audiences, most notably at Northeastern University, Mass College, St. Michael’s College, and New England Conservatory of Music. Other past venues include Ryles, Les Zygomates, Acton Jazz Café, 711 Bistro, and the Calliope Theater. The band’s greatest achievement came this past December upon release of The Mark Zaleski Band CD; an album that signifies the band’s growth and captures its eclectic sound. “I didn’t write anything specifically for this album,” Zaleski says, “(the songs) all came together at the right time and I was like, ‘These can make a great album.’” Some of the songs are relatively new, while others have been performed for several years. Zaleski believes the album does justice to the band’s ambition in promoting jazz as a diverse genre as well, “In a lot of ways this isn’t a jazz CD. Most of the music sways away from standard jazz composition and performance.” This album effectively conveys the band’s endeavors to transform the standards of jazz. From the lively spirit of “Care Free” to the gentle touch of “They Told Each Other Sweet Lies…”, The Mark Zaleski Band CD is full of variety and character. The CD is available online, the iTunes store, and on the band’s website: