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 and/or recorded with many jazz luminaries over the years, from Liebman to Miroslav Vitous, Mike Clark, Steve Smith and Bob Berg, to name just a very few. Says ALL ABOUT JAZZ, “Zilber is one of the true masters of modern jazz saxophone, his prodigious talents evidenced by his recordings and live performances are truth.”
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. The CD has received numerous rave reviews, and, as ALL ABOUT JAZZ’s Paul Rauch opines “Originals For the Originals is a top 10 of 2017 candidate without a doubt.” 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.