Denny Zeitlin, Solo Piano: Early Wayne (Sunnyside)
Over the years, Zeitlin has made clear his affinity for Wayne Shorter’s compositions. In previous Sunnyside albums he explored the harmonic depths and structural challenges of “Deluge” and “Footprints,” and in a MaxJazz CD more than a decade ago, the composer’s seminal “E.S.P”. On Early Wayne, Zeitlin expands his appreciation of Shorter. He revisits “E.S.P.”—including an attention-getting passage of neo-stride piano—and plays nine other Shorter pieces. He finds freshness in music that already has an aura of modernity despite Shorter’s having written most of it decades ago. Zeitlin unleashes his imagination and formidable technique in interpretations of “Speak No Evil,” “Nefertiti,” “Infant Eyes,” “Teru,” “Toy Tune,” “Paraphernalia,” “Miyako,” “Ju Ju” and “Ana Maria,” Shorter’s moving tribute to his wife, who died in a 1996 plane crash. They are all first and only takes, performed before an audience at the Piedmont Piano Company in Oakland, California. The piano sound, recorded by Vadim Canby, complements the personal qualities of Zeitlin’s performance and Shorter’s compositions. This is an important addition to Zeitlin’s discography, and to the growing list of recordings honoring Shorter, who turns 83 next month.