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by Denny Zeitlin

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    CD edition of Denny Zeitlin "Labyrinth"

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1. Footprints
2. Sail Away
3. They Say It's Wonderful
4. Lazy Bird
5. As Long As There's Music
6. Labyrinth
7. People Will Say We're In Love
8. Brazilian Street Dance
9. Dancing In the Dark
10. Slipstream

CD Quality - 16 bit / 44.1 khz

“Solo piano performance takes me back to my earliest roots, and allows for perhaps the most intensely personal musical statement.” - Denny Zeitlin

We know from Greek mythology that a labyrinth is a maze that seemingly never ends. When a musician performs before an audience, he/she leads the listener through the maze-thread of his/her artistic mind with artistic fulfillment beaming at the exit point.

The Labyrinth has a special meaning for the celebrated pianist/composer/psychiatrist Denny Zeitlin, a composer of import and an artist with more than sixteen recordings as a leader and who has worked/recorded with many, including Charlie Haden, Herbie Hancock, and Pat Metheny. Labyrinth is the name of a composition he originally recorded in the sixties with bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Jerry Granelli, and it is the title of his second solo piano release on Sunnyside Records. The album was recorded in July 2008 in Sebastopol, California as part of Ernie Shelton's House Concerts, a special series of home-centered performances for small audiences.

“While I've enjoyed the excitement involved in walking out on a stage to a huge audience, I have also cherished the unique intimacy created in smaller settings, such as a room in someone's home, filled with less than 100 people,” Zeitlin writes in the CD liner notes. “And if those people are willing to reach out and meet the music halfway, then boundaries between player, instrument, room, and audience can easily dissolve, and some very deep, rich music may occur. Ernie Shelton's House Concerts provided this atmosphere, and I believe something special emerged.”

In that engaging and intimate setting, this profound and pleasing program of American popular songs, jazz standards, and original compositions is Zeitlin’s most successful musical “house call” to date. The eleven-track CD boldly displays all Zeitlin’s pianistic prowess as Wayne Shorter’s African-inspired classic “Footprints” is reinterpreted with evocative piano string manipulations and clever tempo shifts from a loose free tempo to a dancing 6/8 feel. “Sail Away” and “Street Dance’ are two Brazilian-tinged selections – the former composed by Tom Harrell and the latter by Zeitlin – that highlight how the pianist dances the bossa-nova and samba.

In contrast, Zeitlin’s treatment of Irving Berlin’s “They Say It’s Wonderful” serenades with an Errol Garner-like sonority, while his renditions of Richard Roger’s “People Will Say We’re in Love” and Arthur Schwartz' “Dancing in the Dark” boldly go where other pianist’s re-harmonization and deconstruction have not gone before. “As Long As There’s Music” was made famous as a fox trot by the late George Shearing but Zeitlin recasts it as a stately waltz. “Slipstream,” a futuristic, blues-tinged selection, and the title track are challenging pianistic tour-de-forces that Zeitlin hopes, “…will give the listener a sense of what it is like to be in a labyrinth—the mystery of it; the repeated paths, obstacles, expectancy, frustration, and discovery. I'm aided in the improvisation by the multi-timbral possibilities inside the piano.”

Denny Zeitlin has been exploring the possibilities of the piano for five decades. Born in 1942, Zeitlin’s piano lessons began in hometown of Chicago at the age of two with a foundation in classical music. His interest in jazz started in high school where he studied improvisation and composition. He gigged in and around his hometown continuing his music studies with Alexander Tcherepnin, Robert Muczynski, and George Russell in college. He then attended medical school at the University of Illinois (Phi Beta Kappa, 1960) and Johns Hopkins University (MD, 1964). He moved to San Francisco after he earned his qualification as a psychiatrist and then performed at the Monterey and Newport Festivals in 1965 in a trio featuring Charlie Haden.

His first recordings as a leader were released on the Columbia label: Cathexis (1964), Carnival (1964), Live at the Trident (Shining Hour) (1965), and Zeitgeist (1967). He withdrew from public appearances during the late sixties and early seventies to “develop a pioneering integration of jazz, electronics, classical, and rock…” The fruits of that union were heard on his three releases on the Arch label: Expansion (1973), Syzygy (1977), and Soundings (1978). He also released an electro-acoustic symphonic score to Invasion of the Body Snatchers on the United Artists label (1978). He went on to release a number of critically acclaimed records on the Palo Alto, Living Music, Windham Hill Jazz, Concord, Venus, ITM, Concord, Intuition, and Maxx Jazz Labels, including Tidal Wave (1984), In the Moment (1988), Live at Maybeck Recital Hall (1993), Slickrock (2004), Solo Voyage (2005), and his two Sunnyside releases, In Concert (2009) and Precipice: Solo Piano Concert (2010).

Zeitlin has appeared on The Tonight Show and CBS Sunday Morning, scored for Sesame Street, and was a two-time winner in The Down Beat International Critic’s Poll. Zeitlin is currently a psychiatrist in private practice in San Francisco and Marin County and a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. In addition to his full schedule of recording, composing, and performing, he also conducts an informative and challenging lecture/demonstration, “Unlocking the Creative Impulse: The Psychology of Improvisation.”

And now we arrive at Labyrinth: Denny Zeitlin’s astounding and amazing solo piano concert, which takes the listener in a long and winding road to artistic ecstasy.

“I hope to be fully present, open, and able to ‘stay out of the way,’ of the music as it draws on the worlds of jazz, classical, funk, and avant-garde.”


released June 28, 2011

Denny Zeitlin - piano


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