Glenn Zaleski: My Ideal

Glenn Zaleski points to Bill Evans’ work as a model for his own approach to trio playing, and that influence is deeply felt throughout My Ideal, the Massachusetts-bred pianist’s appealing debut as a leader. Zaleski, who studied at the Brubeck Institute in California and the New School before settling in New York City, is joined by regular compatriots Dezron Douglas (bass) and Craig Weinrib (drums), on a set mixing songbook gems with bebop tunes and originals by composer friends.

Like Evans’ trios, Zaleski and his partners move as one, seemingly effortlessly, dazzling with quiet intensity rather than explosive energy. Exhibit A might be a rearranged, nearly seven-minute version of Jule Styne’s “Make Someone Happy,” shot through with melancholy. That sweet melody acts as a launch pad for the accomplished pianist’s thoughtful improvisation and the bassist’s brief solo, all quick stair-stepping runs and melodic lines.

The trio takes on other well-loved standards, including a loose-limbed, free-floating “Body and Soul” and a contemplative “My Ideal” sparked by the pianist’s long unaccompanied intro. An extended prelude, with rhythmic rolls and swells, opens Jerome Kern’s “I’m Old Fashioned,” livened by the addition of Ravi Coltrane on tenor saxophone. Charlie Parker’s speedy, rambunctious “Cheryl” and Freddie Hubbard’s quick-paced “Arietis” contrast nicely with the more laidback material, as do bassist Rick Rosato’s shade-shifting “Waltz for MD” and the rock rhythms of vibraphonist Peter Schlamb’s “REL.” It all adds up to an engaging, sometimes surprising set of music by a talent worth watching.