Denny Zeitlin has recorded over thirty-five critically acclaimed albums; twice won first place in the Down Beat International Jazz Critics Poll; written original music for Sesame Street; and appeared on network TV, including repeats on the Tonight Show, and CBS Sunday Morning. Zeitlin’s lecture-demonstration “Unlocking the Creative Impulse: The Psychology of Improvisation” has been presented across the U.S. and in Europe.
He has concertized throughout the U.S., Canada, Japan, and Europe, at colleges, jazz clubs, and major festivals; appearing with jazz greats such as Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Tony Williams, Bobby Hutcherson, John Patitucci, John Abercrombie, Marian McPartland, Charlie Haden, David Grisman, Kronos Quartet, Paul Winter, David Friesen, Matt Wilson, Buster Williams, George Marsh, and many others.
Zeitlin was born in Chicago in 1938. His parents were both involved in medicine and music. He began playing the piano at age two, studied classical music throughout his elementary school years, and fell in love with jazz in high school — a made-to-order medium for his primary interest in improvisation and composition. He played professionally in and around Chicago while still in high school. in college and medical school, he combined jazz with formal study of music theory and composition with Alexander Tcherepnin, Robert Muczynski, and George Russell. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Illinois in 1960 and received his M.D. from Johns Hopkins in 1964.
He is currently a psychiatrist in private practice in San Francisco and Marin County and an award-winning Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. His first series of records appeared on Columbia in the mid and late 60’s, and were received with critical acclaim and international exposure.
Zeitlin then withdrew from public appearance for several years in order to develop a pioneering integration of jazz, electronics, classical, and rock. This music emerged in the early 70’s with multiple recordings, culminating in the 1978 electronic-acoustic symphonic score for “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. Subsequently he returned for several decades to a primary focus on acoustic music in a multitude of settings, with continued composing, recording, and international touring.
Recent recordings include two critically acclaimed albums for MaxJazz: In 2004 he released “Slickrock,” a trio CD featuring Buster Williams, bass, and Matt Wilson, drums. “Solo Voyage” followed in 2005, featuring solo acoustic piano and piano with synthesizer orchestration.
Touring in recent years has included trio jazz festival performances at Litchfield, Chicago, Monterey, San Francisco, and South Florida; and jazz club appearances at Chicago’s Jazz Showcase, Boston’s Sculler’s, New York City’s Iridium and Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, Oakland’s Yoshi’s, and Los Angeles’ Jazz Bakery, where they played to rave reviews, packed venues, and standing ovations.
2009 was marked by the simultaneous release of 2 albums spanning 45 years of recording: a 3 CD box set, “Denny Zeitlin — The Columbia Studio Trio Sessions,” from the sixties (Mosaic), and “Denny Zeitlin Trio In Concert, Featuring Buster Williams & Matt Wilson” (Sunnyside). This was followed in 2010, 2011, & 2012 by critically acclaimed solo CDs on Sunnyside: The concert albums “Precipice” and “Labyrinth,” and the studio album “Wherever You Are — Midnight Moods For Solo Piano.”
Zeitlin celebrated his 50th anniversary in recording in 2013, with the release on CD of his 1963 debut recording as featured pianist on Jeremy Steig’s “Flute Fever” (Columbia), and the critically acclaimed “Both/And: Solo Electro-Acoustic Adventures” (Sunnyside).
In 2014, “Stairway To The Stars,” a live trio album with Buster Williams and Matt Wilson was released, along with a JazzTimes feature in which Andrew Gilbert wrote: “By any measure, Zeitlin’s creative output over the past 50 years places him at jazz’s creative zenith.”
In 2015, after several years of upgrades to his electronic studio, Zeitlin teamed up with drummer George Marsh to record the critically acclaimed “Riding The Moment,” an electro-acoustic album of duo free improvisations.
In 2016, Sunnyside Records released “Denny Zeitlin: Early Wayne,” a solo piano concert exploring classic compositions of Wayne Shorter.
In 2017, Zeitlin posted complete videos on YouTube of his “Zeitlin Meets Monk” solo concert, and Sunnyside released the highly praised “Expedition,” a follow-up album of duo electro-acoustic free improvisations with George Marsh.