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Listening Post: Steve Gadd returns to Rochester; Denny Zeitlin pays a solo piano visit to Wayne Shorter


Steve Gadd Band, Way Back Home: Live from Rochester, N.Y. (BFM Jazz, disc plus two DVDs). Ever since jazz and rock decided to keep intimate company and go electric together (in other words, early Ramsey Lewis trio stuff doesn’t really count), Rochester-bred drummer Steve Gadd has been as busy as the proverbial one-armed paper hanger (proverbs used to be a lot more pungent, you see.) At the age of 71, the veteran studio jazz drummer has played with just about everyone. What he did though on this disc (plus concert DVD and DVD of friend interviews) is to come back home to Rochester with a quintet and show some love to his hometown at last year’s Rochester Jazz Festival. (He grew up in the suburb of Irondequoit and, among other sessions with Rochester’s jazz aristocracy, appeared on Chuck Mangione’s famous “Friends and Love”). The stars of his quintet here are guitarist Michael Landau and organist Larry Goldings (who has been, as a studio musician, every bit as ubiquitous as Gadd). Trumpet player Walt Fowler contributes a crucial color to the group, to be sure, but right from the beginning, Goldings and Landau get your attention and keep it. Other than originals, they play tunes by Keith Jarrett, Jan Hammer and Buddy Miles as well as the grand old standard “Bye, Bye Blackbird.” Goldings and Landau are a pleasure throughout and Gadd can – and does – conjugate the whole language of fusion drumming with classic elegance. The performance was from last June at the Eastman School of Music. ŒŒŒ out of four. (Jeff Simon)

Denny Zeitlin, Early Wayne: Solo Piano performances of Early Wayne Shorter Compositions (Sunnyside). Very little in this world is easier for deep-dish jazz fans than selling them on a solo piano disc of Denny Zeitlin playing early compositions by Wayne Shorter, the great jazz composer who was the co-leader of Weather Report and the best tenor saxophone cohort Miles Davis had after John Coltrane (and probably his most compatible resident composer along with Herbie Hancock). Zeitlin has been a brilliantly creative jazz pianist since the ’60s, even though his career has had to be mostly concentrated around the San Francisco Bay area. The reason is simple; he also has been, throughout his musical career, a practicing psychiatrist. What he writes by way of explanation here is: “I believe that Wayne is jazz’s greatest living composer and improviser. ... I was a junior in college in 1959 when Wayne Shorter made his recording debut as a leader and was captivated by the originality of his sound and concept, both as a performer and as a composer. He continued to inspire me over the ensuing decades. ...The idea of an entire concert of Wayne’s tunes as launching pads into improvisation occurred to me as I was preparing for an annual performance at the Piedmont piano company in Oakland, Ca. The venue is perfect – a stable of marvelous pianos; an intimate concert space that attracts an attentive and adventurous audience; flawless acoustics, and a staff that really cares about the music.” Every Shorter tune here is from his golden ’60s except for “Ave Maria” from the ’70s. That includes “Speak No Evil,” “JuJu,” “Infant Eyes,” “Paraphernalia” and “E.S.P.” Not everything on this record is completely arresting but the best of it – the angular solos and the grandiloquence of so much of it – bespeaks a composer/soloist tandem of enduring power. ŒŒŒø out of four. (Jeff Simon)

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