Denny Zeitlin, solo piano – Early Wayne – Sunnyside Communications

Denny Zeitlin, solo piano – Early Wayne –  Sunnyside Communications SSC1456, 69:59 ****:

A dynamic, percussive, pianist with a gift for illuminating modern jazz that is harmonically articulate.

In 1978, the late American psychiatrist M. Scott Peck published a book entitled The Road Less Travelled which purports to be a description of the attributes that make for a fulfilled human being. This is not meant to suggest that pianist/psychiatrist Denny Zeitlin does not have a fulfilled life. But rather it propounds that he has successfully developed his career on his own terms, following a path that is free of the shibboleths that might constrain his creative ideas. His current release Solo Piano: Early Wayne is a continuation of this voyage.

A number of  Wayne Shorter’s compositions featured here, were written during the period  from 1964 to 1970, when he was a member of The Miles Davis Quintet. His compositions were intricately structured with meandering contours that allowed for a variety of interpretations which Denny Zeitlin has embraced. “Speak No Evil”is a perfect introduction to this recital, as Zetlin demonstrates his eloquent flexibility and dependable curiosity.

Wayne Shorter, who is now eighty-two years old, and has achieved iconic status, continues to play frequently, most recently as a guest soloist with The Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra. As Zeitlin demonstrates in this solo session, he is intrigued by Shorter’s ever changing compositional lines that show up on “Nefertiti” on which he is able to weave a tapestry of inventive musical strands.

Beautiful themes run through Shorter’s compositions and “Infant Eyes” is no exception. Zeitlin’s approach to this ballad is perfectly fashioned as it was filled with sparkling  sensitivity. This composition and well as “Miyako” were dedicated to his daughter of the same name. In terms of Zeitlin’s  approach to the number, it is somewhat pensive, yet a suitably elegant piece of music. Another number with a personal connection is “Ana Maria”, named after Shorter’s wife and who died tragically in a plane crash in 1996. The composition comes from Shorter’s 1974 release Native Dancer, a collaboration with Brazilian musician Milton Nascimento. Zeitlin’s subtle version has a hint of the Brazilian underpinnings to the number.

Finally “E.S.P.” which again comes from Shorter’s time with The Miles Davis Quintet. Zeitlin dives into the number with strong single note dexterity, covering the keyboard and bristling with urgent vivacity.

Denny Zeitlin is a dynamic, percussive, pianist with a gift for illuminating modern jazz that is harmonically articulate.

TrackList: Speak No Evil; Nefertiti; Ju Ju; Teru; Toy Tune; Infant Eyes; Paraphernalia; Ana Maria; E.S.P.; Miyako

—Pierre Giroux

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