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.
OPENING ACT: MARK ZALESKI AND THE TEAPARTY TEN
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).
What’s your quintessential “I’M GONNA DANCE AROUND MY APARTMENT IN MY SKIVVIES AND LOVE LIFE!” song?
Todd Rundgren’s “Bang On The Drum All Day.”
What’s your favorite word?
MAIN EVENT: THE MARK ZALESKI TPB INTERVIEW
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.