Denny Zeitlin: The Doctor Is Definitely In!

Tom Greenland By

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Denny Zeitlin
Denny Zeitlin: The Columbia Trio Sessions
Mosaic Select

Denny Zeitlin Trio
Denny Zeitlin Trio/In Concert

"The doctor is definitely in!" announced Todd Barkan last month at Dizzy's Club, hailing the East Coast return of pianist Denny Zeitlin for a two-night stand. Touring in support of two sterling releases—The Columbia Studio Trio Sessions and In Concert—the swinging psychiatrist is indeed back in force. The Mosaic box set contains three complete albums, Cathexis, Carnival and Zeitgeist, recorded between 1964 and 1967, along with over an hour of high quality alternate takes and unreleased cuts. It is apparent from the very first track that Zeitlin possesses a keen intellect, chops to burn, a restless imagination and, above all, a unique sensibility. The Cathexis sessions, recorded in New York with Cecil McBee (bass) and Freddie Waits (drums), feature many of the hallmarks of Zeitlin's style. "Blue Phoenix" is an extended composition moving mercurially through moods, tempos, key centers, even including sections of free improv. "Nica's Dream" and "I Got Rhythm" demonstrate his flair for reworking standards with innovative reharmonizations that nevertheless respect the original composition. "Little Children, Don't Go Near That Home" is a programmatic piece with shifting time signatures and "Nica's Tempo" exhibits the close interplay typical of Zeitlin's trios.

These stylistic traits resurface on Carnival, the followup album recorded with Charlie Haden (bass) and Jerry Granelli (drums), Zeitlin's working trio during his internship in the Bay Area. Between his two historic stints with Ornette Coleman, Haden bolsters the atmosphere of interactivity and open- endedness. Among many fine tracks, the title cut, "Minority" and "All the Things You Are" are standouts, replete with complex textures and conversational exchanges. Zeitgeist is culled from three different sessions, two with the Carnival rhythm section, recorded a year-and-a-half later and a final session with a new trio composed of Joe Halpin (bass) and Oliver Johnson (drums). "Mirage," from the Haden and Granelli sessions, is superlative, a suite featuring intricate compositional structures, freeform soloing and empathetic group interaction. The later trio shines on "Slipstream" (one of the alternate tracks), which features a burning solo by Zeitlin and a fine understated bass solo. The tracks on Zeitgeist vary from succinct tune readings to extended workouts and provide interesting points of comparison between the two rhythm sections.

In Concert brings us back to the future, some 40-plus years after the first Columbia session, to find Zeitlin mixing it up live with Buster Williams (bass) and Matt Wilson (drums). Zeitlin's unique musical personality is recognizably intact—a penchant for odd time signatures, unique harmonies, intricate compositions, open blowing and dynamic group exchanges—but these elements have now become more ingrained, more intuitive. On Cole Porter's "All of You," both on the CD and during the recent gig at Dizzy's, the trio was supremely simpatico, playing freely with the pulse and structure of the tune, bouncing ideas back and forth. The CD closes with the hard swinging "Signs and Wonders," while the Dizzy's set closed with "Slick Rock," a powerful summation—for the moment—of Zeitlin's amazing career(s).

Tracks & Personnel

The Columbia Studio Trio Sessions

Tracks: DISC 1: Repeat; I-Thou; Stonehenge; Soon; Nica's Tempo; Cathexis; 'Round Midnight; Little Children, Don't Go Near That House; Blue Phoenix, Pts. 1-3; Nica's Dream; Requiem for Lili; I Got Rhythm; DISC 2: Carole's Garden; We'll Be Together Again; Skippying; Once Upon a Summertime; Carnival; The Boy Next Door; Minority; After the War; All the Things You Are; The Decision; The Journey Home; Later; Labyrinth; DISC 3: Living Alone; Dormammu; Put Your Little Foot Right Out; The Hyde Street Run; Here's That Rainy Day; I Got Rhythm; Maiden Voyage; Offshore Breeze; Night and Day; Mirage, Pts. 1-2; Slipstream; The Bells of Solitude; Western Thing; Spring Is Here.

Personnel: Denny Zeitlin: piano; Cecil McBee, Charlie Haden, or Joe Halpin: bass; Freddie Waits, Jerry Granelli, or Oliver Johnson: drums.

In Concert

Tracks: Mr. P. C.; The Night Has 1000 Eyes/10,000 Eyes; The We of Us; All of You; Prime Times; Bass Prelude; Signs & Wonders.

Personnel: Denny Zeitlin: piano; Buster Williams: bass; Matt Wilson: drums.


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