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Denny Zeitlin: Slickrock

Jim Santella By

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With his straight-ahead acoustic piano trio, Denny Zeitlin improvises over familiar standards and fresh originals. As a practicing psychiatrist in the San Francisco Bay Area, he also teaches at the University of California and lectures on the psychology of improvising. A good teacher should always demonstrate when necessary, and who better for the task than one who’s devoted a lifetime to jazz performance? Zeitlin has juggled two careers to fulfillment, and he continues to demonstrate his capacity to lovers of the tried-and-true formula.

The four-part suite that closes the album introduces yet another facet of the pianist’s many interests. Zeitlin has written this suite as a token of his love for mountain biking. His dramatic piece depicts the adventure that weekend cyclists absorb while traveling over slickrock in various parts of the world. Momentum carries the suite through its phases; one must always stop to rest and enjoy the view from time to time. Piano, bass and drums thunder out recollections of the way such a scenic outing can capture your heart. Physical exertion and occasional rest areas make for a full weekend and a healthy lifestyle. Zeitlin has translated these ideas into a mesmerizing musical form.

Standards such as “Body and Soul” ring familiar, offering proof that no two improvised performances are ever the same. As the trio slow dances comfortably through this chestnut, their spontaneous inventions flow naturally. A bass solo and a cloudy sky of wire brush swirls give the pianist the kind of support desired. Wayne Shorter’s “E.S.P.” proves more drama, with its up-tempo walk and arpeggio-laden romps. Zeitlin’s lesson in improvisation is just what the doctor ordered.


Track Listing: You and the Night and the Music; Wishing on the Moon; Every Which Way; Put Your Little Foot Right Out; It Could Happen to You; Body and Soul; Sweet Georgia Brown; E.S.P.; Just Passing By; Slickrock: Dawn: Gathering; On the Trail; Recovery; On the Trail Again.

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

Title: Slickrock | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: MAXJAZZ


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