The newest addition to jazz.com’s “The Dozens” series is Bill Kirchner’s recommendation of twelve tracks by pianist Denny Zeitlin. Five of the pieces appear in the new Mosaic compendium of Zeitlin’s 1960s trio recordings for Columbia. The others are from single albums, some available, others rare. Typical of Kirchner’s keen musician’s guidance through the tracks is this evaluation of Zeitlin’s “Stonehenge:”
This modal burner deserves to be more widely performed. One reason it isn’t probably has to do with a complex polyrhythmic interlude that requires an authoritative lead sheet to be executed properly. Since Denny Zeitlin’s own lead sheet isn’t commercially available (I have a copy, and trust me, it’s not music you’d want to transcribe), that leaves the piece in limbo.
From a listener’s standpoint, though, this is a compelling performance, and one of Zeitlin’s earliest indications of his gifts as a composer. It has McCoy Tyner-esque sturm und drang, but Zeitlin’s vocabulary is quite different and gives his improvisation a character of its own. The climax is (drummer) Freddie Waits’ solo over a roaring vamp by Zeitlin and (bassist) Cecil McBee.
From this listener’s standpoint, that sort of guidance is helpful. Perhaps it will be to you, too. To read the whole thing, go here. You may find that Kirchner’s article works hand-in-hand with a piece I wrote about Zeitlin in The Wall Street Journal last March.