Denny Zeitlin – Wishing On The Moon (2018)

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Denny Zeitlin’s Wishing On The Moon is a vital document of a trio that’s been gigging for some eighteen years, led by one of jazz’s most innovative keyboardists of the last half century and completed by a rhythm section of notable leaders themselves. Buster Williams and Matt Wilson are about the best you can find in a jazz bassist and drummer, respectively, and this well-honed combo show off the symmetry during an evening at New York’s Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola that was actually taped some nine years prior to this Spring 2018 Sunnyside Records release.

It’s immediately clear from the opening standard “All Of You” that this is a three-leader trio, with Williams and Wilson asserting themselves in a non-overbearing fashion. All of the participants handle both the comp and lead chores, easily erasing the distinction between the two functions. Zeitlin, as he routinely does so convincingly, keeps the spirit of the familiar melody in mind while adding his own personal interpretation to it. Williams and even Wilson make tonality a central part of their solos, not speed or other showy feats.

Zeitlin’s delicacy is matched by William’s lyricism on Zeitlin’s own “Wishing On The Moon.” The waltz on “As Long As There’s Music” is handled by methodically by Williams, leaving Wilson to accentuate it with grace and refinement; Zeitlin seems to just feed off of that. Williams later transitions into a repeating figure that serves as the song’s coda.

“Slickrock” is a four-part suite fashioned by Zeitlin. The opening “Dawn, Gathering” section is a brief walk on Zeitlin’s free side, Williams sawing away in concert with the pianist’s untethered musings. Zeitlin picks up the tempo for “On The Trail,” emulating the energy of a brisk mountain bike ride (a hobby that inspired this suite). A breakdown of the momentum happens on “Recovery,” a showcase for Williams where his bass pulses like an electric variant of the instrument. The three regroup from the free flowing segment to reprise the “On The Trail” motif, this time allowing for a Wilson showcase.

“Bass Prelude To Signs & Wonders” is — as advertised — Williams alone, who performs the rare feat of chimes on a double bass before launching into the ostinato that underpins “Signs & Wonders.” Zeitlin takes command with a masterly of left-hand comping/right-hand improv coordination and using the weight of full chords to fill up space with melodiousness. Check out Wilson tactically tracing his climbs and descents on the chorus, a final example of the cohesiveness of this unit.

Continuing a tradition started by Bill Evans of highly interactive piano-led trios, Denny Zeitlin found his own Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian in Buster Williams and Matt Wilson. Wishing On The Moon presents three unique musical personalities in pursuit of the right group dynamic and their performance at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola confirms they had achieved it.

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