Friday, September 5, 2014

Denny Zeitlin, Stairway to the Stars

There is more than one Denny Zeitlin--pianist, composer, electronician, advanced garde jazzman, purveyor of interpretive acumen for the standard repertoire. On the trio effort Stairway to the Stars (Sunnyside 1380), as one might gather from the title, exactingly thoroughgoing re-thinking of standards is the order of the day.

Denny assembled a trio for the San Francisco Jazz Festival and a gig following that at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles, 2001. He chose bassist Buster Williams for his beautiful sound and sense, and a then-young Matt Wilson on the drums.

Fortunately the Jazz Bakery gig was well-recorded, and we now have some excellent music on disk from the stint, the recording at hand.

The trio runs through some standards well- and less-well-known, my favorite being an excellent rendering and interpretation of Wayne Shorter's "Deluge". But there are really stunning versions of such familiars as "Oleo", "You Don't Know What Love Is", and "Spring is Here", among others.

What is remarkable is the Denny Zeitlin harmonic-melodic pianistic exponent, which is at full throttle and continually to be heard on this set. He is a master of such doings in his own right, even if these days more time and attention may be given to the Evans-Jarrett contingent. Just listen to Maestro Zeitlin's excellent work here and listen again.

Buster Williams not only fits right in, he sounds inspired and at his best. The piano trio in full flourish needs an acutely aware bass master who does much more than walk, of course. And Buster comes through in rather spectacular fashion. We know now how musical Matt Wilson is as a drummer. The special subtlety and punch demanded of a trio drummer was something he already could muster up, and that he does here.

The time of the recording chronologically was 2001, but really this kind of set is without provence. When everything is right there is a timelessness. That is clearly the case on Stairway to the Stars.

This one is not to be missed!

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