Denny Zeitlin On Piano Jazz

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57 min 49 sec
 
Denny Zeitlin i i

Denny Zeitlin. courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption courtesy of the artist
Denny Zeitlin

Denny Zeitlin.

courtesy of the artist

Set List

  • "Body and Soul" (J. Green, E. Heyman, R. Sour)
  • "Cascade" (D. Zeitlin)
  • "Turnaround" (O. Coleman)
  • "Threnody" (M. McPartland)
  • "All the Things You Are" (J. Kern, O. Hammerstein)
  • "E.S.P." (W. Shorter)
  • "Gone With the Wind" (A. Wrubel, H. Magidson)
  • "Lady Bird" (T. Dameron)

On this week's Piano Jazz, pianist and professor of clinical psychiatry Denny Zeitlin visits the program with host Marian McPartland.

The California-based Zeitlin is a two-time winner of Down Beat polls, and has been a faculty member at the University of California in San Francisco since 1968. As a teen, Zeitlin played professionally around his hometown of Chicago, and by college he was playing with Wes Montgomery, Johnny Griffin and others. Bill Evans dug Zeitlin early on, and named his 1970 album Quiet Now after a Zeitlin composition. In this session, Zeitlin's tunes include standards, as well as tunes by Wayne Shorter and Ornette Coleman.

Zeitlin is quick to point out that his psychiatric work is not a means of supporting his piano playing; rather, his dual careers complement each other. He says he sees communication and empathy as vital to both. In his solo take on "Body and Soul," Zeitlin modulates between several keys, with a beautiful touch and cerebral improvisations reminiscent of Bill Evans. He takes the tune way out, but easily and elegantly returns to the melody, and follows up with his own shimmering "Cascade."

"You must really put in some practice time," McPartland says. "That piece is so dramatic, and there's a lot going on there. I'd hate to see that thing written down."

McPartland and Zeitlin get together for a duet on Ornette Coleman's playful, blues-based "Turnaround" — an angular but memorable tune. The two pianists refer to blues-based structure, but take advantage of open spaces to run the tune to the outfield. McPartland plays a solo version of her pensive tune, "Threnody," and Zeitlin returns for another duet: a complex yet delightful take on "All the Things You Are."

"I've been a big fan of Wayne Shorter for years," Zeitlin says. "It's funny: Every tune he writes has something unusual about it and is instantly identifiable as a Shorter tune." He proceeds with a blinding take on "E.S.P.," a tune recorded by Miles Davis' mid-'60s quintet with Shorter.

"I've got that Miles LP," McPartland says. "But hearing you play it, I can catch the melody much more clearly than when Miles and the guys did it."

Zeitlin and McPartland perform two more duets to close this week's program. First, it's a relaxed interpretation of "Gone With the Wind," and a more swinging take on the lovely Tadd Dameron tune, "Ladybird."

"That was a good one!" McPartland exclaims.

"Yeah, that was fun," Zeitlin adds. "Let's do this again. At least three more times!"

Originally recorded Nov. 19, 1999. Originally broadcast Mar. 28, 2000.