michael zilber group
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michael zilber group

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The Heretic - (Owl/EMI) 1990
Stranger in Brooklyn (Owl/EMI) 1992
Paradise/The Suburbans - 1998
Two Coasts (IGMOD) - 2000
Reimagined (Blue Jay) co-led w/Steve Smith - 2003
Live at the Jazzschool (Jazzschool) co-led with Dave Liebman - 2003
Crossroads (Twocoasts) 2005


Feeling a bit camera shy


Michael Zilber, whom jazz legend Dave Liebman calls “one of the best composers and players around anywhere, period!” was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada. He moved to Boston in his late teens and to New York City in his early twenties. He has performed and/or recorded with Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt, Liebman, Miroslav Vitous, Bob Berg, Eddie Henderson, Fareed Haque, Geoff Keezer, Donald Harrison, John Handy, Dave Douglas, Rachel Z, James Genus, Rodney Holmes, Narada Michael Walden and Barry Finnerty, among many others.

While in New York, Zilber recorded two critically acclaimed OWL-EMI Records as a leader, “The Heretic” and “Stranger in Brooklyn,” which was named one of the top 30 CDs of all time by Jazzfusion.com.

Since his move to San Francisco, Michael has performed in numerous musical settings as a leader and sideman, including co-leading a quartet featuring the renowned drummer Steve Smith and directing CARMA, the Bay Area’s “all-star Jazz Orchestra.”

Zilber-led groups have headlined to standing ovations at The Monterey, San Francisco, Montreal, Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto, Big Sur, Edmonton, Calgary and Fairfax Festivals, as well as at such leading venues as Yoshi’s, Kuumbwa, Bach Dynamite, and Slim’s and recently shared the stage with the Wayne Shorter Quartet in an SFJazz night of tribute to the great saxophonist and composer.

Michael’s 2000 release, the critically-hailed “Two Coasts,” features Steve Smith, Rachel Z, James Genus and Rodney Holmes. This CD was a finalist for the 2001 Independent Music Awards Jazz Record of the Year.

He has also been active as a sideman, including recording as a soloist on more than 20 CDs by various artists.

Michael’s CD, co-led with Steve Smith, entitled “Reimagined: Jazz Standards, Vol. I” and featuring Zilber’s writing and arrangements, was released in March 2003, by Blue Jay Records of New York City. It received tremendous praise and went to #20 on the jazz radio charts.

In September 2003, Jazzschool records made “Live at The Jazzschool: David Liebman and Michael Zilber” its debut release on the new label.

Zilber’s most recent tour was with Dave Liebman and Steve Smith across Canada for the summer festival circuit, and he recorded his new CD, Crossroads: Brooklyn to Berkeley at The Studio in Manhattan with Liebman, Genus, Clarence Penn and Bruce Barth.

Zilber is also a Downbeat award-winning director of the Jazzschool’s two advanced jazz workshops, which have been featured at the IAJE and Monterey Jazz festival. In addition, he coaches the Brubeck Institute sextet and runs the Los Medanos College jazz studies program and has a doctorate from New York University. He has taught at the Stanford Jazz Workshop and Jazz Camp West and was asked to teach with Dave Douglas, Greg Osby, and Don Byron at the Banff International Jazz Workshop this May.

Michael’s newest recording is Crossroads: Brooklyn to Berkeley, and for the first time, this music will be distributed exclusively through the internet. Crossroads: Brooklyn to Berkeley features the first release of all original compositions by Zilber since 2000’s Two Coasts, the Independent Music Awards Jazz Record of the Year finalist. For Michael, who has co-led a band with drumming superstar Steve Smith since 1995, this represents a real change of musical direction. “I love Steve, value our friendship and loved our 8 years co-leading a group, but I realized that as he has moved from the Bay Area to Ashland, Oregon and is touring heavily as a sideman and doing drum clinics, it was a great opportunity for me to rekindle some musical relationships with other favorite players, as well as make new connections.”

The material has also changed for Zilber. “I was aware that I had written over 200 new pieces of music since my last all-originals recording, and that they deserved to see the light of day. With Steve, we mainly focused on the reimagined standards from the CD of the same name. Even on the tour with Lieb, we mainly played a mix of the reimagined material and standards. Many of my newer tunes reflect a more melodic, harmonically richer approach, with a lot of space for breath in the music, and I wanted to put together a group that felt comfortable living in that musical world, as well as swinging in the modern New York way.” To that end, Zilber is surrounded by the cream of the new acoustic generation in New York, bassist James Genus (Herbie Hancock, Mike Brecker, Dave Douglas, Chick Corea), drummer Clarence Penn (Mike Brecker, Dave Douglas, Maria Schneider) and pianist Bruce Barth (Terence Blanchard, Nat Adderly, MaxJazz). On two tracks, his mentor and long-time musical associate, jazz master David Liebman joins Zilber. Says Michael, “I was so pleased to get the exact group of players I wanted for this recording. And it was an added bonus that, in the case of Lieb, James and Bruce, my musical friendship with them stretches back as far as 1981.” The music on Crossroads is available fo