Denny Zeitlin, one of the most senior but least known of the great jazz piano innovators to arise from the ‘60s, makes his MaxJazz debut with Slickrock. With bassist Buster Williams and drummer Matt Wilson (his working trio), he explores a collection of three originals, six arrangements of jazz standards and a suite reminiscing about his mountain biking trips in Utah.
They open with a swinging "You and the Night and the Music," expanding into a probing of the harmonic reaches with a solo full of pentatonic parallel octaves. Two originals, the ethereal bossa nova "Wishing on the Moon," which reminded me of "Wild is the Wind," and the funky "Every Which Way," follow. A reharmonization of "Put Your Little Foot Right Out" comes before an impressionistic introduction leading into "It Could Happen to You." "Body and Soul" wears new harmonic clothes, as does "Sweet Georgia Brown," which is played in 6/8. The trio gets to swing out on Wayne Shorter’s "ESP" and lay back on the country/gospel "Just Passing By."
Zeitlin’s four part suite, "Slickrock," takes on a day’s outing to a mountain bikers's Mecca of the same name in Utah. He takes us on a trip which starts with the peace of dawn amongst the rock canyons, builds up to show the energy of the bikers doing amazing things on the trail, then pausing for recovery and the return to the trail. Zeitlin features the prepared piano prominently, something he has done in the past.
The trio plays very cohesively; Buster Williams’s solos are pensive and well thought out and Matt Wilson's drumming is restrained and tasteful throughout. Denny Zeitlin never runs out of musical ideas.
Personnel: Denny Zeitlin: piano; Buster Williams: bass; Matt Wilson: drums.