To be a composer in jazz music requires the ability to whittle a musical idea to its essence. The composer essentially provides the band with a springboard, or, in the words of Rufus Reid, a "playground": a melody and form that sparks the imagination of the musician and hopefully provokes inspired improvisation. Overwriting can stifle improvisation, but underwriting can result in monotony or chaos.
Fellowship is a follow-up to this trio's 2015 debut release, My Ideal. My Ideal was a collection of mostly standards and some cover material, so the "playgrounds" were familiar to us and allowed for inspired performances. For this album, I wanted to capture a similar energy, but on the unfamiliar grounds of my originals. Thankfully, Dezron and Craig responded to this music with energy and imagination, and together we were able to capture what I feel is the essence of these pieces.
About the music:
Table Talk - After working this song out for a while, I finally finished it in my hometown of Worcester, MA. (For the record, I'm actually from Boylston, a suburb of Worcester.) Because of this, I decided to name it after one of Worcester's better-known exports.
Westinghouse - Dedicated to Billy Strayhorn, and named after the high school in Pittsburgh that not only he attended, but also other Pittsburgh luminaries Erroll Garner and Ahmad Jamal.
Is That So? - One of two non-originals on the album, this is a classic written by one of the great jazz composers, Duke Pearson. With familiar yet fresh (still!) harmonies, and an infectious melody, this song has long been a favorite of jazz musicians', and has been personally influential in terms of how to construct an effective "tune".
Fellowship - In 2015 I was invited to perform with the students of my "alma mater": the Brubeck Institute Fellowship. I was honored by the invitation, and decided to write something for the occasion. Fighting the urge to write the most burning thing possible, this complex and reflective piece was the result.
Out Front - Dezron's resounding bass intro to "Homestead" deserved a track all to itself.
Homestead- During a travel day that felt particularly endless, the repetitive, circular bass line for this song occurred to me. Finished when I finally arrived back at home, the longing and frustration that I occasionally feel on the road found its way into this piece.
Lifetime - This blues head is dedicated to one of my favorite jazz clubs: Lifetime. Lifetime feels like home not just because of its beauty and its accommodating nature, but also because it's in my wife's hometown of Shizuoka, Japan.
Central Park West - The second of the album's non-originals, this is a classic by the great John Coltrane. Technically speaking, the roots of the first four bars outline a 12-tone row (making it by far the most beautiful use of a tone row in a jazz ballad!), and the last four bars rest meditatively on the bright key of B-major. But technicalities aside, the song's beauty simply speaks for itself.
P.S. - Dedicated to the great vibraphonist and composer Peter Schlamb. I wrote this after immediately after a phone conversation we had, and I think that some of his compositional energy had rubbed off on me.
- Glenn Zaleski
You can learn more about the record (and order a copy!) here. Sheet music from the album is also available here. I'm truly proud of this record and can't wait for you all to hear it!