This week, Melissa Aldana and Glenn Zaleski return to The Jazz Gallery this week with their powerhouse sextet. The ensemble features a fluctuating personnel and an evolving set of original tunes. It’s a crucible for experimentation and musical growth, with members contributing new music and arrangements at each show. Aldana and Zaleski are no strangers to the Gallery, having performed here plenty of times with a wide array of projects. In anticipation of their two-night stint with the sextet, featuring Philip Dizack [trumpet], Alex LoRe [alto sax], Craig Weinrib [drums], and Pablo Menares [bass], we called Zaleski and Aldana to talk about the origins and development of the sextet project.
Melissa Aldana: I proposed a sextet to Glenn because it’s a form I love. The idea came from me wanting to hear some different sounds while performing. I’m so used to playing trio, which really pushes you to grow. But now I’m ready to experiment with new things. The sextet is a challenge, an opportunity to get together, talk, and grow collectively. We’ve all been writing, reharmonizing, exploring. Every time I play with the sextet, it’s an opportunity for something new.
Glenn Zaleski: In every new version of the sextet, we’ve each played with each other before, but often only in duo or trio settings. I play with Craig [Weinrib] in my trio, I might play with Pablo [Menares] in Melissa’s band, might play with Philip [Dizack] in Lucas Pino’s nonet, and so on. When there are six people who are all loosely connected but don’t always literally play together, there’s a lot of potential energy. The unique thing about this sextet is having a group of like-minded people who wouldn’t usually be together at the same time. It’s exciting, there’s a lot of energy to explore, and it only ever gets better. The repertoire of the sextet grows as we incorporate more people to try this music.
Connection and Contribution
MA: The first gig Pablo and I did together was when Randy Brecker went to Chile. Somebody set up a tour, and Pablo was there. That was the first time we actually played together, I was fourteen or fifteen. We’ve known each other for many years. There was an age difference, so we weren’t friends when I was young. But when I was at Berklee, he came to Boston to visit, and we became good friends. We’ve been playing in a trio for many years now.
GZ: We’re doing one of Pablo’s tunes, “En Otro Lugar,” a tune I’ve played with Pablo and Melissa a bunch of times. It’s a staple in Melissa’s book. It’s a really beautiful tune, and I’m always happy to play it. I contributed the tune “Fellowship,” from my upcoming record. My first two years of college were at the Brubeck Institute Fellowship program in California, 2005-2007. A decade later, the 2015 fellowship quintet asked me to be a special guest for a concert at Dizzy’s. That was a big honor. I wanted to write something for them to commemorate the occasion, and ended up with something introspective, complex in a slow way. I kept “Fellowship” alive, played it on the record, then decided to arrange it for sextet.
MA: I love Glenn’s playing. He’s one of those players with huge ears. He’s always himself in the sextet, but completely adapts to the situation. Hearing Glenn play, he’s a beautiful musician with a wide sense of space. As a horn player, that’s one of the things I love. So much freedom for me to explore and feel supported. Beautiful harmony, truly organic.