Denny Zeitlin – Cathexis


This used to be one of my favorite albums. In listening to it again to write about it, I realize that I almost exclusively listened to the A-side. It’s a great side. I got this album when I was doing time in Chanute, Kansas.  I was the news director at a little radio station there. There was a bit of fun to be had; it’s what you make it after all. But I still refer to that time in my life as the dark days. I was a 23-year-old man in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere where my extremely low paying job was to come up with 15-minutes of news about the middle of nowhere every day.

One of the bright moments of this existence was coming upon a big box of jazz and blues albums that the station was throwing out. At that time the station mostly played music, music that came preprogrammed on these giant reels of tape. Throughout most of the day these giant reels spun playing the mildest and most popular songs of the previous decade or two, pausing occasionally for commercials or a time check or news. I asked if anyone was interested in this box of jazz and blues records. Of course they weren’t. So back to my furnished top floor of a crappy old house they went.

Of that box of albums, Denny Zeitlin was the one I liked best and listened to most. I love the opening track, Repeat, and it’s  repeated opening phrase. I’ve sung along with it dozens of times. It makes me happy, and I’m sure that it’s uplifting quality is one of the reasons it got so much play in Chanute.

The rest of side one, continues to be joyful, if not so bouncy and sing-along as that first tune. Any jazz album, I suppose, can be enjoyed in the background while you’re doing something else. (I know there are those that are less musical, and more, is there something wrong with the sound system, but for the most part I’m saying.) And Zeitlin’s record is fine for that. And most days it may be best for that.

For it seems to me that Zeitlin’s music has a lot in common with classical music. Maybe this is true for most, or at least a lot of jazz, but I really noticed it here. Now bear with me. I had one required music appreciation class (and for years after I had repeated dreams about sleeping through the final of that class). But in the same way that a novice music lover might say to himself while listening to classical music, hmmm, what’s that little phrase quietly making it’s way from the background and slowing taking control of the piece, or, oh, that’s the tune from earlier, only now it’s sad and slow; you find those kinds of things going on throughout this album. This makes listening to this record, really listening to it, which I try it do before writing about a record, a bit of work. There’s a lot to miss if one is making dinner or playing words with friends while this album is on. I guess I’m saying this was an easier album to enjoy back in Chanute when I had little else to do other than sit and listen.

The back of the album cover has a lot to say about Zeitlin. As he was beginning his music career back in 1964 he was also perusing the field of psychology. A Google search for Zeitlin shows that he’s been successful at both. So if you’re interested, you can find more of his stuff out there. While it doesn’t see the play it once did, I’m glad I have this album. And today I’m going to give side A one more listen before it goes back into the music box.


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