Choosing to be a musician is a commitment for the long-term, especially if one aspires to be a jazz musician. For every Jamie Callum or Eldar, there are thousands of determined players woodshedding every day and dreaming of having a hit record.
They may have even already recorded the tracks that will break through – and don’t know it. That’s what happened to New Jersey pianist Joel Zelnik.
Zelnik is a regular performer in New York and Northern New Jersey clubs, where he and his wife Francine Evans draw crowds with their tributes to Frank Sinatra, Big Band girl singers and other shows.
His career began in the late 1960s, when he formed the J. Zelnik Trio. The group’s swinging performances earned them lots of fans, including Dr. Billy Taylor, who would feature tracks from an LP recorded by the trio in 1970, Move, regularly on his radio shows.
Turns out, Move is a big hit in Japan … in 2010.
The album wasn’t a big seller initially, in fact, when the son of the trio’s drummer David Rosenburg, who died some years after the recording was made, wanted to hear his late-father’s work a few years ago, the only copy anyone seemed to know about was on Zelnik’s shelf.
Zelnik made a copy of the recording and sent it to Jay Rosenburg (son of David). Jay enjoyed it so much, he began a one-man crusade to spread the music of the J. Zelnik Trio.
Thanks to the Internet, Japanese businessman Keisuke Taniguchi became a fan, investing time and money in producing a CD to release in Japan.
Search online for the J. Zelnik Trio and a handful of Japanese sources pop up – using Google’s translator, a few things were clear: the album is legendary among jazz fans there (and they are a dedicated and informed bunch); it features such tunes as “Tune Up,” “A Minor Thought” and “Will You be Mine”;… and it’s selling out.
It’s such a hit, the Japanese Think! Label has already arranged to release a follow-up, Joel Zelnik Trio Live At Steinway Piano Gallery.
Both recordings are available stateside from Dusty Groove’s American site, dustygroove.com.