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Westport’s Max Zaska to release much-anticipated new single this week

Ciara Moynihan

Guitarist-composer Max Zaska is set to release the first single, ‘Cannot Will Not’, from his forthcoming debut album, ‘It Takes A Village’, which he made with his soul-funk collective, the eponymous Zaska.
Max is the maestro and songwriting-guitarist who sits at the helm of the supergroup – a revolving line-up of Ireland’s finest talent that has included Hozier. In addition to soulful Irish-Sierra Leonean singers Loah and Emma Garnett, the upcoming album features 12 other renowned Dublin-based vocalists, including members of Wyvern Lingo, Little Green Cars, Barq, Super Silly, Come On Live Long and many more.
Of Irish-Bavarian descent, Max grew up in Bray, Co Wicklow, and in Westport and Louisburgh (both Westport and Old Head beach feature to great effect in the official video for an earlier Zaska tune, ‘In Your Own Sweet Time’ – a video shot by Westport woman Orla Casey, and featuring Hozier on vocals). He is also married to a Westport woman, Charlotte Knee-Zaska, with whom he has one child.
Since completing a BA in Jazz Performance in Dublin’s Newpark Music Centre, the musician-songwriter has been gaining a solid following for his feel-good blend of funk, jazz and R&B. And not surprisingly. It’s got a warm, retro feel and a catchy, flowing, unassuming air. Only musicians who really know their stuff can make such complex technical compositions sound so easy.

Latest single
The uplifting, catchy melody of ‘Cannot Will Not’ counterbalances the song’s potentially downbeat subject matter. The lyrics ruminate on the idea of parents’ mortality and the struggle to accept the fact that those who reared us won’t be around forever.
The song’s touching video is described as ‘a small token of gratitude to Max’s mum and all that she’s done for him’. He surprises her with a trip to a fun park, and generously allows the viewer into a page of their personal life. They spend the day together, sharing ice cream and popcorn, going on roller coasters and playing fairground games. The lyrics and the video are a gentle reminder of the importance of creating happy memories, and of simply hanging out with the people we love.   
The new single comes less than a month after the collective’s ‘Stankstrumentals’, a live three-song instrumental EP that was released on October 19. The video for the fantastically funky jazz tune ‘Snarky’ from that EP has already surpassed 200,000 views. Shot in what the singer says is a house in Monasterevin, Kildare, it features a group of musicians gettin’ down in their dressing gowns.
One can only assume that the name is a nod to Grammy-award-winning New-York band Snarky Puppy that – like Zaska – fuses jazz, rock and funk while embracing the kind of live improvisation that comes with technical prowess.  
Zaska’s soon-to-be-released album ‘It Takes A Village’ will hit shelves and music libraries thanks to a hugely successful FundIt crowdfunding campaign. Back in 2016, on the pages of The Mayo News and elsewhere, he asked fans and music lovers to help him achieve his goal of ‘making one of the funkiest albums the country has ever produced’. His campaign struck a chord, and ended up bringing in the highest number of individual donors and the third-highest amount raised on the platform that year.  
Accolades for Zaska’s music have been pouring in, with Hot Press branding his earlier work as ‘one of the most strikingly accomplished debuts to cross the Hot Press towers sound system in quite some time indeed’, and Le Cool calling him ‘one of the most exciting up-and-coming artists in the country’.
Golden Plec is a huge fan too. Last March, the music magazine included  him on its ‘Golden Axe’ list of ‘The Best Guitarists in Ireland Right Now’. “The crown prince of Irish jazz, Max Zaska’s place on this list was never in doubt,” the magazine said.
Incidentally, another Westport guitarist, Barq’s Stephen McHale, also made Golden Plec’s list of 12 – not bad going for a small town. There must be something funky in the water.

Zaska’s single ‘Cannot Will Not’ will be released this Friday, November 16, while the album ‘It Takes a Village’, will be released in early 2019.