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Denny Zeitlin: Early Wayne

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This live solo-piano recital is an ambitious undertaking. The program is 10 Wayne Shorter tunes, most from the early 1960s. Shorter’s compositions, with their motivically assembled melodic structures and proprietary harmonic environments, are famously challenging. But Denny Zeitlin never sounds worried. He sounds exhilarated, caught up in the adventure.

When Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet introduced “Nefertiti” to the world in 1968, it was a strange, pensive suspension that recycled for eight minutes, without solos. Zeitlin is less interested in the song’s ambiguous chord progressions than in its tendril of melody. He delicately traces it and then gradually enlarges it into something deep and dense. He never quite abandons “Nefertiti,” even as he flows outward to its distant implications.

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