Joined this time by Buster Williams and Matt Wilson, Zeitlin almost evenly divides Slickrock between original compositions and reworked standards. Opening the CD with "You And The Night And The Music," Zeitlin spends little more than half a chorus referring to the melody before he veers into self-generated counterpoints and then various detours that eventually merge at the end into the melody again, like the flow of a herringbone chart. Beyond the exquisite piano playing, though, which brings out the music with Zeitlin’s sure sense of touch and coruscating command of the entire keyboard, it becomes apparent that Williams and Wilson are entirely engaged in the music. Williams’ bass lines are solid with buoyancy that sustains the motion. Wilson spontaneously captures the textures of Zeitlin’s music and heightens them through the sensitive extension of tones with lightly shimmering cymbal work or driving malleting, ever conscious of the need to help fulfill the thoughts of Zeitlin rather than rolling over them. In other words, the trio plays as a cohesive unit as Zeitlin’s virtuosity spurs Williams and Wilson to a state of intense focus.
The next tune, Zeitlin’s "Wishing On The Moon," proceeds in a more leisurely fashion, with a subdued Latin feel which features Williams’ bass work, at equal or higher volume than Zeitlin’s, freeing him to play in the middle and upper registers. On the other hand, "Every Which Way" sets up a stomp interrupted by loping piano and bass lines as the speed of the performance ratchets up several notches. The trio does the same thing with Wayne Shorter’s "E.S.P." by taking it at several times the accustomed speed, converting the lurk of the original version into a forceful, and seemingly effortless, spillway of notes. "Sweet Georgia Brown" attains reconsideration as well as Zeitlin stretches the melody and applies 6/8 time to it, developing discreet elements of the phrasing into full-blown elaboration consisting of sparkling tremolos, catch-you-unawares accents and freshly conceived modulations.
The capstone of the CD is Zeitlin’s rather brief four-part "Slickrock" suite, which describes in impressionistic terms the thrill of mountain biking, inspired by one of Zeitlin’s adventures in Moab, Utah where he witnessed breathtaking feats of daring that he thought not possible. Starting the first movement, "Dawn: Gathering" (only two and a half minutes in length), with free improvisation evoking the start of a day of biking, Zeitlin’s trio moves through three more movements suggesting the motion of the bikes as they pick up speed, climb, descend, turn, explore and decelerate. Obviously awed by the sights of his mountain biking locations and the rarely appreciated beauty of the sport, Zeitlin, imaginative as ever, concludes Slickrock with his freest and most visual improvisation on the entire CD.