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Denny Zeitlin: Precipice: Solo Piano Concert

Track List

>Free Prelude/What Is This Thing Called Love?/Fifth House, Pt. 1
>Free Prelude/What Is This Thing Called Love?/Fifth House, Pt. 2
>Out of My Dreams
>On the March
>We of Us, The
>Love Theme from Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Album Remarks & Appraisals:

"The singular mission of Denny Zeitlin continues with Precipice, the recorded document of a concert in January, 2008 at Ralston Hall, Santa Barbara, California. The experience is at once predictably exquisite as it creates a state of a type of suspended animation, floating with utter weightless abandon, as composer and pianist, Zeitlin flies over the edge of its proverbial cliff seduced by the thunderous cascade of music. This is how the music builds up to that frenetic quantum energy by the time Zeitlin reaches the middle of John Coltrane's "Fifth House," the final theme of Zeitlin's magnificent version of "What Is This Thing Called Love." The build up to "Fifth House" features some of the most majestic and ingenious improvisation on record. From an exquisite cadenza through the melodic invention of the main body of the piece, Zeitlin reigns supreme. His touch is impeccable. His ideas rush like the rumour of a raid. His invention is unstoppable as he plays phrases inside out and lines that appear to ascend melodic mountains then drop suddenly as the lines fade into oblivion.

Throughout the program, Zeitlin does something else with verve and splendor: he swings like the wickedest cat since Art Tatum. His left hand swerves and swaggers while his right hand makes florid whorls of the melody of the songs. His left chases down the melodic invention of his right hand with dense harmonic chords clusters as in "Out Of My Dreams." Then the hands may switch roles; a rumbling melodic phrase with the left and a naughty tinkle with the right, at the far end of the keyboard. All this in the space of a beautifully stated metaphor, explaining "The We Of Us." The mystery of the title becomes the magic of the rhapsodic song as Zeitlin puts imaginary arms around his love while no one is looking. This sprightly crepuscular encounter is followed by the more dense melody of "Deluge," which is meandering diversion before the breathlessly paced and superbly controlled "Oleo." The song's bop melody bookends a riotous improvised body that completely reinvents the original lines of the Sonny Rollins classic.

Zeitlin's "Love Theme from the Invasion of the Body Snatchers" is the tenderest moment of the set. A marvellous ballad, the melody pulsates like the heartbeat of lovers entwined. The ebb and flow of the song line unfolds breathlessly and with a charm of its own. That chart is only a stop away from the crescendo of "Pulsar" and "Precipice," a song with its own mercurial, wind-up which virtually explodes at the end. As a solo pianist, Zeitlin has made a significant contribution to the literature of piano music with Precipice.Although radically different from Keith Jarrett's solo records and more like those of Herbie Hancock andChick Corea, this album is a timeless masterpiece from one of the greatest exponents of virtuoso pianoforte in the last two centuries - Denny Zeitlin." -AllAboutJazz

"In pianist Denny Zeitlin's words, performing a solo concert is "wonderfully limitless and challenging." And, of course, such a context lends itself to the dangerous feeling of never being far from the edge of a cliff - hence, the title track. Still, the end result proves that this challenge wasn't too daunting for the acclaimed jazz veteran (who's also an influential psychiatrist). The disc - expertly recorded at Ralston Hall in Santa Barbara, Calif. - mixes Zeitlin's compositions with his unique twists on standards, like reworking the pulse in Rodgers & Hammerstein's waltz "Out Of My Dreams" without losing the original's emotional heft. He also fills his own "Pulsar" with an intriguing internal tension, yet the most quietly striking piece is his acoustic revisit to his own "Love Theme From 'Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.'"" -DownBeat

Album Reviews:

Down Beat (p.73) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "He outlines his ideas patiently, exploiting the resonance of the instrument in quiet passages in the upper register and with emphatic accents in the bass."

JazzTimes (p.71) - "Zeitlin draws from classical, modern jazz and free improvisation with equal -- even interchangeable -- facility, and has a knack for deconstructing his own tunes, sometimes mid-performance."

Album Notes

Audio Mixer: Dennis Edwards.

Recording information: Ralston Hall, Santa Barbara, CA (01/2008).

Photographer: Josephine Zeitlin.

Arranger: Denny Zeitlin.

Denny Zeitlin's career as one of the greatest but woefully under-appreciated modern jazz pianists, may have taken a turn with the release of his early period Mosaic/Columbia trio reissue studio sessions, and several fine recordings for the Sunnyside label. This solo concert done at the Ralston House in Santa Barbara, CA recalls older standard favorites of Zeitlin's and adds on some of his beautifully conceived originals, exuding a spirit that suggests both renewal and determination of continuance. As a diversified modernist, Zeitlin is as easily capable of playing beautifully as he is of ripping up be-bop, but it is his advanced harmonic sense that sets him above and beyond most others. He's also capable of modal music, interpretations of show tunes, funky underpinnings, or introspective sounds that reflect his influences -- Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, and Thelonious Monk. Perhaps originals like the playful, active "On the March" gives you more an indication of how ultra-melodic a performer Zeitlin can be, but when you hear the rhapsodic, romantic "The We of Us" there are more layers to reveal. Always a champion of jazz giants, Zeitlin tears the speedy Sonny Rollins bop standard "Oleo" as if child's play, and uses soul-stirring, cascading harmonics during Wayne Shorter's lesser-known "Deluge." Whether in tricky time signature, loving discourse of lyrical proportions, or the occasional angular flight of fancy, Denny Zeitlin's expertise shines through familiar music and the spontaneously derived jazz that marks his a true master of the idiom, time after time. ~ Michael G. Nastos


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