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David Royko Psy.D

Denny Zeitlin - Cathexis (Columbia)

When I was binge gorging on jazz 25 years ago, I know I bought and listened to some pianist/composer Denny Zeitlin, and that my friend and bop pianist Stu Katz loved and raved about him, but I have little recollection of the impression he made on me. WTF? I just went back to his 1964 trio album (with Cecil McBee and Freddie Waits), Cathexis, and it is some seriously great stuff. Not exactly obscure -- he's a major figure in jazz -- and on top of that, he's originally a Chicago guy (who ran in the same circles as Stu, and like lawyer Stu, he's also a prominent professional in another realm, psychiatry). But there's no bottom to my well of ignorance, and I've accepted that whenever I croak I'll be pissed about all I never got around to absorbing, and not even know that I missed. But at least Zeitlin will be off that list. He builds from a bop foundation a totally original approach, blending the freer new-thing sound of Ornette with a hint of the openness of Bill Evans (when Zeitlin slips into ballad mode), and bringing to mind fellow jazz pianists Herbie Hancock and the busier-style Chick Corea in their 1960s modes, though with his own completely original sound -- accessible but challenging, appealingly complex and just a joy. And a technical monster. Mmmm good. Better late than never.

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