"Put simply, Zilber is one of the true masters of modern jazz saxophone, his prodigious talents evidenced by his recordings and live performances are truth." ALLABOUTJAZZ

Renowned saxophonist/composer/educator Dr. Michael Zilber has in his 30 years of recording, performing and teaching, been able to combine the musical gifts as a player and composer. 

NEA Jazz Master David Liebman hails him as "one of the best players and composers around anywhere. Period!"



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About Dr. Zilber's new album Originals for the Originals Jazz Trails' FILIPE FREITAS writes:

"Vancouver-born, San Francisco-based Michael Zilber, a talent of the saxophone, a dexterous composer, and a respected educator, exhibited his impressive skills side by side with jazz luminaries such as Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt, Dave Liebman, Miroslav Vitous, and Dave Douglas. Now, leading an elastic quartet whose reliable rhythm section includes David Kikoski on piano, James Genus on bass, and Clarence Penn on drums, Zilber prepared Originals for the Originals, a beautiful 11-track album that homages several jazz saxophone masters. Here, he explores the boundaries beyond those traditional melodies and harmonies that served him as an inspiration. 

The opener, “Breckerfast Club”, the first of a pair of earnest dedications to Michael Brecker, literally made my feet move and my body shake such was the rhythmic punch and swinging urgency of its straight-ahead efflorescence. Playing with nerve and spectacle, the band serves up jabbing improvisations, starting with Kikoski who, cooking up as fast as objective, embarks on euphoric rides full of melodic and rhythmic intention. The bandleader showcases an extensive collection of brisk phrases and lucid rhythmic figures rooted in the post-bop prime directive. A vamp is put up near the end, allowing and inviting Penn to percolate his percussive imagination through a creative jaunt."

Paul Rauch, from "All About Jazz" writes:  "Summoning the spirits of transcendent masters such as John Coltrane, Michael Brecker, Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins and Paul Desmond, Zilber takes a very personal approach to channel the essence of his relationships with their collective sound. Rather than trying to evoke the unmistakable sounds of these iconic players, he bases each piece on a melodic phrase or harmonic passage extracted from their music. "It's an homage, but I'm not trying to be a copycat," says Zilber.

A lot of what makes Originals For the Originals so engaging is that Zilber possesses a striking sound all his own. His tenor sound is deep, dense, and elastic, rounded off by impeccable articulation, while from his probing intuitive sensibility on soprano emerges a softer, more reflective narrative. 

While Zilber dedicates his compositions to seven titans of the instrument, this dedicated premise is not what draws me to this recording. If familiarity with historic players such as John Coltrane, or Sonny Rollins draws listeners to explore this album, then Zilber's homage will have served the purpose of enlightening us to their dynamic talents. Put simply, Zilber is one of the true masters of modern jazz saxophone, and though an unknown anomaly to many, his prodigious talents evidenced by his recordings and live performances are truth.

 Originals For the Originals is a top 10 of 2017 candidate without a doubt, and a must listen for any jazz fan that pays homage to the masters of the past, and moves ever forward with the inspired works of the present.

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DOWNBEAT AWARDS: FOR 14 OF THE PAST 15 YEARS ZILBER HAS WON BEST jazz group COMBO for the Advanced Jazz Workshop at the California Jazz Conservatory.

Dr. Zilber demonstrates mastery of the great American art form, from soloing to composing, from saxophone technique to ensemble work, large and small, adjusting for the level and need of each individual program and student.

Dr. Michael Zilber

Dr. Michael Zilber

Hen House (for Joe Hen) by Dr. Zilber

San Francisco Bay Area based saxophonist and composer Michael Zilber is described by NEA Jazz Master David Liebman as “one of the best players and composers around anywhere. Period!” The Canadian-born ex-New Yorker has 11 albums to his name as a leader or co-leader. He has performed or recorded with many jazz luminaries over the years, from Liebman to Miroslav Vitous, Mike Clark, Dizzy Gillespie and Bob Berg, to name just a very few.

Zilber co-led a band with drumming great Steve Smith for eight years, releasing the top 20 recording Reimagined: Jazz Standards, Volume 1 in 2003. For the past decade, he has teamed up with guitar virtuoso John Stowell, most recently on 2016’s Basement Blues, which All About Jazz’s Dan McClenaghan calls “as compelling and modernistic and compelling as any group out there,” hailing Zilber as “soulful and flawless”. Their 2015 Origin Records recording Live Beauty, made DownBeat magazine’s “best of the year” list for 2015, as well as garnering rave reviews from JazzTimes and All About Jazz. This was a follow-up to the group’s Shot Through With Beauty, which NPR jazz critic Andrew Gilbert picked as a top 10 record of the year. On Turning Ten: The Billy Collins Project, providing musical settings for the American Poet Laureate’s poems, was hailed by famed jazz journalist Bill Milkowski as a “work of art of the highest order.”

Zilber currently leads his “Originals for the Originals” project, with an 2017 Origin album release of the same name featuring high-profile sidemen Dave Kikoski, James Genus and Clarence Penn. Zilber also leads a project called Weather Wayne, his electric jazz homage to Wayne Shorter, recently playing to a sold out house at SFJAZZ.

Zilber is also a sideman in various projects, including in top Trumpet/composer Erik Jekabson’s Stringtet, and playing in and writing for SF-based Electric Squeezebox Orchestra. This highly acclaimed composers’ big band recently released Cheap Rent, receiving 4.5 stars in DownBeat. In Berkeley, California, he leads the multiple DownBeat award-winning Jazzschool Jazz Workshop, as well as overseeing the composition program and teaching ensembles at the California Jazz Conservatory. Zilber holds a Doctorate in composition from NYU.