Denny Zeitlin

Slickrock

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Denny Zeitlin has worked with various trios over his long career and he has likely found the ideal rhythm section with bassist Buster Williams and drummer Matt Wilson. It doesn't take long for them to break away from the predictable path through "You and the Night and the Music," as each of them finds adventurous lines within their respective roles. "Put Your Little Foot Out," forever associated with Miles Davis, is transformed into a slow waltz with a bit of dark undertone. Zeitlin adds a touch of mystery with his unusual introduction to "It Could Happen to You," taking his time to gradually work into its theme. His odd rhythmic approach is achieved by constantly shifting the meter, as well as the numerous shifts in the key, setting it well apart from other interpretations. The pianist's moving solo improvisation segues into the standard "Body and Soul," which he also re-harmonizes. Zeitlin is equally creative as a composer. This is his first recording of "Just Passing By" to include a drummer, though Wilson sticks to brushes to add a jaunty air not present in previous renditions. But the highlight of this CD is the brilliant four part suite "Slickrock," named for a favorite mountain biking trail which Zeitlin and his wife enjoy. "Dawn: Gathering" suggests the challenges ahead, mixing composed passages with free improvisation. The wild ride begins with the roller coaster "On the Trail," with Williams' powerful solo suggesting regular obstacles integrated with the pianist's hairpin turns. "Recovery" gives the musicians a chance to catch their collective breath, though the journey is hardly over, as Williams' tense arco bass, "Wilson"'s insistent hand percussion, and the leader's mix of played and strummed piano chords indicate. "On the Trial Again" reprises the second movement, punctuated by Wilson's brilliant percussion backed by Zeitlin's vamp, leaving the listener almost as out of breath as a biker completing a trip through the actual trail itself. "Slickrock" alone makes the investment in this Denny Zeitlin CD worthwhile, though every track proves to be equally memorable.

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