Denny Zeitlin: Mr. P.C.

Back on his first leader date in 1964, Denny Zeitlin chose a lengthy minor blues ("Blue Phoenix") as the centerpiece of his trio album. Four decades later, Zeitlin features a different extended minor blues as the launching pad for a trio project. In both instances, Zeitlin incorporates unexpected tempo changes into the performance, juxtaposes ensemble and solo passages, and generally impresses with his chops. This version of "Mr. P.C." starts out at a very fast clip, dangerously close to 400 beats per minute. Williams and Wilson deserve kudos for swinging with gusto at this frantic pace. But they soon fade out, and let Zeitlin loose on a solo excursion. He covers all the bases - from cerebral to sensitive - before letting his bandmates join in on the fun. This artist has never enjoyed widespread fame, but I assure you that other pianists take him quite seriously. I remember a poll that Gene Lees conducted among keyboardists some years back, asking them about the piano peers they admired. Zeitlin finished toward the top of the list - all the more remarkable when you consider that he has spent most of his career in medicine, with jazz as a sideline only.

January 06, 2009 · 0 comments


McCoy Tyner & John Scofield: Mr. P.C.

McCoy Tyner has often returned to songs from his stint in the legendary John Coltrane Quartet. However, this Coltrane composition, first featured on the 1959 Giant Steps project—not as a paean to political correctness, rather a dedication to bassist Paul Chambers—actually predates Tyner's time with the saxophonist (although it remained in the repertoire of the classic 1960s quartet with Tyner). A half century later, this sizzling minor blues still can pack a punch. Jack DeJohnette kicks things off with a solo drum intro of eight bars that sets a driving tone for the proceedings. Scofield is full of energy and highly inventive as he takes no fewer than twelve choruses, his lines getting more complex as his solo moves toward its climax. Tyner follows with a brilliant solo, his left and right hands trading sound fragments that rumble and growl over the fiery accompaniment of Carter and DeJohnette. Scofield jumps back into the fray—clearly his dozen previous choruses did not exhaust his thoughts on the subject of Mr. Paul Chambers, or at least his perspective on the minor blues. Ron Carter is given the briefest of solos before the final melody statement, but decides to keep on walking, which he does in a fashion that would make the original Mr. P.C. proud.

September 23, 2008 · 0 comments


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