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Denny Zeitlin: Wishing On The Moon

Dan Bilawsky By

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The title of the final cut on this live date—"Signs & Wonders," written by David Friesen—truly homes in on the truth about this trio. For in gestures large and small, guideposts laid out by form and instinct, a time-strengthened sense of equilateral idealism, and an open-minded aesthetic, this outfit continually creates music to marvel at.

While pianist Denny Zeitlin, bassist Buster Williams, and drummer Matt Wilson have been at it together for eighteen years, this set doesn't leverage that span of time and the present moment. Instead, it looks back to one particular evening at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola—March 10, 2009. At that point in time this trio already had significant shared time and experience(s) under its belt, a fact that's made evident across this utterly captivating program. The collaborative spirit is in the air from the first—a lengthy take on Cole Porter's "All Of You." There, Zeitlin takes the opportunity to deliver a master class in reharmonization while the trio calibrates itself and conjures evolutionary tides. The title track—a sensitive, star-kissed bossa nova from Zeitlin's pen—and a waltzing take on "As Long As There's Music" follow, furthering the synergistic spirit in the air.

The album's centerpiece—the segmented "Slickrock"—finds the trio traversing varied ground in a mountain bike-inspired event. These men first meet up in a reduced gravity setting that points toward Zeitlin's freer likings. Then they ride high on danger during "On The Trail," play to precarious thoughts while finding a more comfortable cadence on "Recovery," and jump right back into high-energy hijinks with "On The Trail Again." In embracing and entwining knowns and unknowns, they manage to paint a wholly convincing narrative arc.

While set-ending acknowledgements follow that long-form number, this album still has a way to go before it's through. A harmonically spruced-up "Put Your Little Foot Right Out" turns nursery rhyme into sterling song, Zeitlin's "There And Back" toys with the dividing line between swing and funk, and the aforementioned "Signs & Wonders," ushered in by Williams' bass and bolstered by his driving ostinato, offers a dose of excitement as a parting gift. Whether updating classics, presenting program music, playing to the map, or moving a step beyond, this group proves to be a model of unabated creativity and class. As trios come, you don't get much better than this.

Track Listing: All Of You; Wishing On The Moon; As Long As There's Music; Slickrock: Dawn; Gathering, On The Trail, Recovery, On The Trail Again; Put Your Little Foot Right Out; There And Back; Bass Prelude To Signs & Wonders; Signs & Wonders.

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

Title: Wishing On The Moon | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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