WBGO Radar

Denny Zeitlin: Stairway To The Stars

pianist denny zeitlin's album stairway to the stars

A trio can be a powerful thing. In the right measure, all three musicians are exposed just enough, and get just as much support as they need to take wing into memory.

In pianist Denny Zeitlin’s case, the trio is the touchstone for two decades of exceptional work. Back in 1996, Japan’s Venus Records invited him to assemble a trio to record the CD As Long As There’s Music, and he recruited bassist Buster Williams and Al Foster on drums.

In 2001, a young Matt Wilson stepped in for Foster on the skins, and he has anchored this trio ever since.

Zeitlin’s latest Sunnyside release, Stairway To The Stars, captures a magical performance by the 2001 trio close to its inception, froma live performane at The Jazz Bakery in Culver City, California in November of that year.

Standards take the fore on the disc, but are anything but “standard” here, starting with Harry Warren’s “There Will Never Be Another You,” followed by familiar classics by Gene de Paul, Jimmy Van Heusen and Richard Rodgers.

To mix things up, we have Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo” and Wayne Shorter’s “Deluge,” and Zetlin’s original “Out For A Stroll.”

Throughout, the disc is testament to the rare ability of these musicians, and evidence that even great artists sound best in the right company.

   -- Tim Wilkins, WBGO digital content producer

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