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Pianist Peter Zak Releases New Trio CD, Performs Solo Jan. 4 at Piedmont Piano, Oakland
(Published: November 06, 2013)

New York-based jazz pianist Peter Zak returns to his East Bay roots with a solo concert at Piedmont Piano Company in Oakland, on Saturday, January 4. Coming on the heels of the release of his newest CD release, a trio session for SteepleChase Records titled The Eternal Triangle, the show marks his first headlining appearance in the region in a year and a half, and his second Bay Area solo performance to date. His previous solo recital took place at Piedmont Piano in 2011.

"It's uniquely challenging to perform on my own and away from my usual ensemble settings," says Zak. "It seems that each time I'm able to achieve a higher level of rapport and intimacy with the audience, and it's a very rewarding feeling. It's also allowed me to gain further depth and insight into the standards and my own original compositions that I like to play. It doesn't hurt that the piano at this venue is a magnificent instrument -- one of the best anywhere, and a similar model to the one I played on my solo piano album release."

Zak's solo work is represented on record by the 2007 album My Conception, but he has more typically gravitated toward the trio format on disc. His latest CD, The Eternal Triangle, is his ninth for the Danish SteepleChase label and re-teams him with Peter Washington and Billy Drummond -- the exciting bass and drum combination featured on his 2012 recording, Nordic Noon. Zak's 2005 recording debut, The Peter Zak Trio, featured drumming great Al Foster and bassist Paul Gill.

Zak likes to program his albums like a continuous set of music, balanced with familiar and less-familiar songs, originals and standards. Repertoire on the new disc ranges from the wistfulness of Cole Porter's rarely heard "Goodbye, Little Dream, Goodbye" to the soulfulness of tenor legend Gene Ammons's "Hittin' the Jug." In a slower lane, bop legend Bud Powell's little-heard ballad, "I'll Keep Loving You," achieves lyrical force through Zak's sensitive phrasing and Washington's luminous, grounded solo. And then there are three strong Zak originals: "The Walk-Up," a lively minor blues with Miles Davis on its mind; "George Washington," a bumptious construction with delightful moving parts; and the firmly melodic "A Body at Rest."

Peter Zak, 48, was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Columbus, Ohio, then moved with his family at age 16 to Oakland. At the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in history, he studied with Susan Muscarella, a prized educator who enjoyed a glowing reputation as a Bay Area jazz pianist in the late '70s and '80s (and is the founder/director of Berkeley's Jazzschool). Zak played on an extracurricular basis in combo and big band settings, with the UC Jazz Ensembles. He also freelanced in bands with noted bassist Herbie Lewis, who had recorded with one of Zak's major influences, McCoy Tyner, as well as Jackie McLean and local hero Bobby Hutcherson.

In the Bay Area, Zak found himself in the heady company of such future jazz stars as Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard (bassist and drummer in Mehldau's acclaimed trio), Larry's trumpet-playing brother Phil Grenadier, and multi-instrumentalist Peck Allmond. Following his graduation from UC Berkeley, Zak played clubs, concerts, and festivals with such notables as saxophonists Frank Morgan and John Handy.

Since moving to New York in 1989, Zak has enjoyed ongoing recording and performing associations with saxophonists Walt Weiskopf, Jim Snidero, and Stephen Riley; trumpeter Ryan Kisor; and guitarist Tom Guarna. Zak has accompanied such name artists as George Coleman, Billy Hart, Jon Hendricks, Etta Jones, Jimmy Cobb, Scott Hamilton, and Junior Cook. He's been on the faculty in the Jazz and Contemporary Music College of the New School since 1995, and has recorded steadily as a leader. In 2005 he was the recipient of a $10,000 commission from the Doris Duke Foundation to compose music for his trio. As Ted Panken wrote in DownBeat, "You can't help but be drawn in by his deep swing, mastery of tempos, horn-like phrasing and orchestrative savoir faire."

Peter Zak at Piedmont Piano Company, January 4, 2014, 8:00 pm. 1728 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland. Tickets are $15. To reserve with a credit card, call 510-547-8188.

More Information: http://www.peterzakmusic.com

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