b. 21 December 1949, New York City, New York, USA. Zankel began playing music at an early age, soon favouring the alto saxophone. After studying at the University of Wisconsin, he attended Berklee College Of Music, then went on to attain a BA degree from Empire State College (State University of New York). In the early 70s, he attracted favourable attention during a spell with Cecil Taylor’s Unit Core Ensemble. Concurrently, Zankel’s reputation spread within the adventurous New York loft scene owing to performances with Ray Anderson, Sunny Murray, William Parker and others. From 1975, Zankel became resident in Philadelphia where he raised his family meanwhile becoming a respected and in-demand sideman with many artists, notably those associated with the city’s thriving jazz scene. Groups he was with in these years, in Philadelphia and elsewhere, include the Hank Mobley -Sonny Gillete Quintet, Jymmie Merritt’s Forerunners, Odean Pope’s Saxophone Choir, and Ruth Naomi Floyd. He continued to work with Taylor, including visiting Europe. As a performer, Zankel delivers intricate virtuoso bop playing with an intensely emotional core. Zankel was also continuing with his studies, now with Dennis Sandole, becoming a skilled and significant composer. As leader and sideman he has appeared at numerous festivals. Among other musicians with whom Zankel has performed, and frequently recorded, are Johnny Coles, Ralph Peterson, Terri Lyne Carrington and Craig Handy. His abilities have been recognized in a variety of ways, including receiving a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Jazz Composition Fellowship, and the Herman Goldman Award, the latter for his composition ‘Cylle’. In 1995 he was awarded the prestigious Pew Fellowship for his writing. Grants he received through the late 80s allowed him to compose and present three jazz ballets and a jazz opera. His compositions have been performed by Lester Bowie, Coles, Marilyn Crispell, Pope, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Peterson and others. Active in music education, Zankel has been artist-in-residence at the Downington and Jarrettown schools, and has also been artist-in-residence for programmes within the Philadelphia prison system. He presently performs with his Warriors Of The Wonderful Sound.
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