Mark and Glenn Zaleski - Duet Suite (2011)


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By 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 (withPaul 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.

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