Getting to Know 2020-2021 Rising Star Glenn Zaleski

April 26, 2021

Glenn Zaleski

Our next Jazz Rising Stars concert of the 2020-2021 Virtual Season is this Sunday, May 2, at 4 PM ET! It features the Glenn Zaleski Trio and, in order to prepare for his concert, we asked Mr. Zaleski if he would be willing to answer a few questions for us to get to know him better. Here’s what he had to say!


You were a semi-finalist in the 2011 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition, as well as a finalist for the 2011 American Pianists Association Cole Porter Fellowship in Jazz, and are one of the most sought-after acts on the New York jazz scene. What has been your favorite performance venue so far?
This is a difficult question! Honestly, I love playing a piano wherever it is. But I did have the thrill of playing at the Village Vanguard in December 2019 with the Vanguard Big Band, subbing for a night for the great Adam Birnbaum, and I’d have to say that was my favorite venue. It’s simply magical in there, whether you’re on stage or in the audience. 


We’re excited to hear you perform with your trio, composed of Desmond White (bass) and Allan Mednard (drums). How did the three of you become acquainted and how long have you been performing together?
I’ve been friends with Des and Allan for years — I met Des in my first years in New York, over 10 years ago and I met Allan about five or six years ago. We’ve played in many different bands together: among others, Des and I in Lucas Pino’s “No Net” Nonet, and Allan and I with Scott Tixier. But Des, Allan and I all play together in Alex LoRe’s Quartet – we recently put out an album as a quartet, and have performed many times. Des and Allan also played on my last quintet record, The Question, that came out in 2020. Although we’re very comfortable playing together as sidemen, truthfully this show at the Gilmore will only be our second performance together as a trio!   


You recently released your album, The Question, this past year. How does the experience of preparing to record differ from practicing for a concert?
Recording and performing are similar — especially nowadays when many concerts that you play are filmed or recorded and end up online!  But for me, recording is building something new from the ground up. When I record, first I have to write and arrange a batch of tunes – often more than actually end up being on the record. Then you have to try them out, workshop them, etc. It’s music that’s never existed before, so there’s no real example to follow. In performance, of course you’ll never write all new music for every concert that you play. So practicing for performing is polishing or deepening your relationship to material that you’ve played before, but recording is giving birth to new material. 


You and your wife recently welcomed a new baby into your life. Has fatherhood shaped the way you look at and perform music? If so, in what ways?
(Speaking of giving birth…!) Yes, tremendously. It’s difficult to quantify all of the ways that becoming a father has changed my approach to music. I think this Wayne Shorter quote sums it up best:  “Music is a drop of water in the ocean of life.” 


While you were working on your graduate degree at New York University, you served as a member of their faculty, teaching classes and private lessons. What is your number one tip for young pianists who want to turn their passion into a career?
Another quote comes to mind here, although I’m not sure where it originates: “Take care of the music and the music will take care of you.” So far I’ve found this to be true.


Thank you to Glenn Zaleski for his candor and we hope you’ll tune in for his virtual concert on Sunday, May 2 at 4 PM ET. Get your ticket today!

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