Denny Zeitlin

Slickrock (MAXJAZZ)

If ever there was a cagey old veteran who flies under the radar it is esteemed Dr. Zeitlin, psychiatrist/pianist extraordinaire. The product of a radiologist father and speech pathologist mother, each with more than a passing interest in music, this Chicago-born pianist is talent-laden. Early comparisons with Bill Evans have dissipated, although if one had to pick an influence, Evans’s name might surface because of the lovely melodic lines, rich harmony and uncanny rhythmic drive. However, Zeitlin employs more ambidextrous, independent and nimble parallel lines, multiple layerings of sounds and feelings. Only Brad Mehldau executes that (and more).

This recording features several well known archaic standards (“You, the Night, and the Music,” “Sweet Georgia Brown” played as a slow waltz, “It Could Happen to You”) as well as some hip stuff (Wayne Shorter’s “ESP”) and some originals including a suite “Slickrock,” derived from a kind of sandstone in an area of Utah’s canyons and trails. The CD is remarkable not just for Zeitlin’s creativity, but also its beauty and coherence. He could not have done better than to select bassist Buster Williams, who always plays every note perfectly, and the adventurous but restrained, metronomic Matt Wilson. Everyone wants him on their record lately – and with good reason. He serves the music.