While I've enjoyed the excitement involved in walking out on a stage to a huge audience, I have also cherished the unique intimacy created in smaller settings, such as a room in someone's home, filled with less than 100 people. And if those people are willing to reach out and meet the music half way, then boundaries between player, instrument, room, and audience can easily dissolve, and some very deep, rich music may occur. Ernie Shelton's House Concerts provided this atmosphere, and I believe something special emerged.
Solo piano performance takes me back to my earliest roots, and allows for perhaps the most intensely personal musical statement. I hope to be fully present, open, and able to ""stay out of the way"" of the music as it draws on the worlds of jazz, classical, funk, and avant garde.
Some Comments on the Concert Program:
1) Footprints: Wayne Shorter's playing and composing have inspired me since his first album back in the fifties, and I have often recorded his compositions. ""Footprints"" is one of his best known and most recorded pieces. I begin working with the melody in a very free way; there is often a pulse, but the time is loose, and this continues into the solo section, where I found myself initially working with aspects of the first 8 bars of the tune. This segues into a section where I utilized the next 4 bars of the composition, but extended it with 4 new bars to make an 8 bar motif that I improvise upon in 6/8 time until the main theme returns.
2) Sail Away: Tom Harrell's graceful, haunting bossa nova is a beautiful vehicle for improvisation. The solo moves from delicate lyricism to a brief roiling, angular line against the bossa nova before returning to the melody.
3) They Say It's Wonderful: This Irving Berlin standard goes back to ""Annie Get Your Gun"" in 1946, and is part of a ballad tradition whose lyrics emphasize the yearning for love. I begin with a free introduction and a rubato statement of the melody. The solo enters in slow 4/4 time, initially spare, gradually gathering complexity, and works its way back to the final melody.
4) Lazy Bird: Coltrane has had a major impact on my musical life, and I remember first hearing this tune in 1957 at ""The
Hut"" in Evanston, Illinois—a coffee shop with the hippest juke box in the Midwest. I take it at a very fast clip, for a brief, fun ride.
5) As Long As There's Music: I've loved this tune since I heard George Shearing's quintet recording in the fifties,
performed as a medium fox trot. Charlie Haden and I did a slow ballad version on ""Time Remembers One Time Once"" (ECM) in the early eighties. And it was the title track of a Venus CD in 1998 with Buster Williams and Al Foster, where I found it worked beautifully as a waltz. This solo version continues that idea.
6) Labyrinth: This is a composition of mine from the sixties, first recorded with Charlie Haden and Jerry Granelli back
then, and released by Mosaic in 2009 in a box set ""Denny Zeitlin: The Columbia Studio Trio Sessions."" I hope the opening theme and the free improvisation that follows will give the listener a sense of what it is like to be in a labyrinth—the mystery of it; the repeated paths, obstacles, expectancy, frustration, and discovery. I'm aided in the improvisation by the multi-timbral possibilities inside the piano.
7) People Will Say We're In Love: My previous Sunnyside CD, ""Precipice,"" includes ""Out Of My Dreams."" I spoke there of my love for ""Oklahoma,"" and of Richard Rodgers’ distaste for jazz musicians changing the chords of his compositions. He probably would not have approved of this extended exploration involving reharmonization, deconstruction, repeated bridges, and shifts in tempo and mood. It was quite a journey, from delicate single voice passages to moments of a big band's shout.
8) Brazilian Street Dance: I first recorded this original composition as a piano solo on ""Homecoming"" (Living Music) in 1986. This was followed two years later by an extended version on ""Trio"" (Windham Hill Jazz) with Peter Donald and Joel
DiBartolo. And in 2001, David Grisman and I explored it as a duet on ""New River (Acoustic Disc). This CD brings it full circle, back to a solo performance. This tune emerged years ago when I was sitting at the piano, imagining what it would be like to awaken some morning in a Brazilian town to the sound of an approaching celebratory dancing band.
9) Dancing In The Dark: I remember first hearing Arthur Schwartz' composition in the 1953 MGM musical ""The Band Wagon"" which featured a stunning Fred Astaire-Cyd Charisse dance sequence. Over the years, it has become a favorite with jazz musicians. My version is extensively reharmonized, and the improvisation moves into contrapuntal explorations.
10) Slipstream: This is another original composition from the sixties, recorded for Columbia with Oliver Johnson and Joe Halpin, and released on the Mosaic 2009 box set. My solo version begins with a free improvisation utilizing the tune's four note motif, and moves into a statement of the theme, an altered 12 bar blues. The improvisation is angular and propulsive, building to a final statement of the piece."