True improvisers always seek new avenues and vehicles to inspire themselves in their art. Keyboard master Denny Zeitlin and percussion guru George Marsh have continued to push their musical dialogs to near telepathic levels utilizing their long-honed rapport and technological advancements to propel their music into new, enlivening places. Their new recording, Telepathy, continues their journey into the endless world of improvisation.
The Bay Area based Zeitlin and Marsh have worked alongside of each other since the 1960s. Together, they have explored the farthest reaches of numerous musical styles, from jazz and classical to rock, electronics and free improvisation. These decades of working together have cemented a bond and musical language that is unbreakable, but also one that continues to evolve.
Since 2013, the two artists have met regularly at Zeitlin’s Double Helix Studio at his home. The meetings happen every two to three months and are always recorded for posterity. The studio houses percussion and drum set along with Zeitlin’s Steinway piano, and an astonishing array of keyboards, computers, monitors, pedals, breath controllers and electronics.
Marsh typically plays acoustically on percussion and drums. Zeitlin plays all keyboards, acoustic and electric. The system is set up for maximum flexibility in real time. Sounds from multiple computer synths are controlled from any of 4 keyboards via foot pedals, hand and breath controls, and an array of three iPads with 8 different complex sounds apiece that can be dialed up and mixed together at any time with the touch of a screen. The net effect is that of two musicians becoming an orchestra, a goal of Zeitlin’s since he first climbed into his parents’ Steinway piano as a child.
Telepathy is the third, and most recent, collection of spontaneous compositions that Zeitlin and Marsh have recorded. It continues on the path they initially carved on Riding The Moment (2015) and Expedition (2017); the musicians are musical explorers who span not only the geography of the musical terrain but also the geology, as they break deeper and deeper into the bedrock of the unexplored.
The duo has continued to grow, and Telepathy shows the crystallization of their processes of instant composition. Zeitlin and Marsh find ways to bring these divergent sounds together in a collective and intuitively structured fashion, all without a note being planned ahead of time. They choose to get out of the way of the emergence of the music.
The recording begins with the evocatively titled “Highlands,” a piece that introduces pipelike tones reminiscent of Scotland with Marsh’s percussion before settling into a piano and bass led groove. One can imagine mercury flowing down a steep hillside in “Quicksilver,” an especially swinging piece, while “Hatching” begins with an ascending emergence before finding a warm pulse. A mysterious pall hangs over “Black Hole” until the murky sustained piano and fluttering percussion finally let some light escape through Zeitlin’s bright righthanded melody and haunting vocal effects.
Ruminative piano and propulsive kit drums build into an otherworldly waltz on “Moon Flower” and the intensity heightens on “Boiling Point,” with a simmering, swinging drum feature and offbeat rejoinders from Zeitlin. Shifting meters, bass pulses, snappy percussion and kalimba make “On the Move” exciting and exotic, while Zeitlin’s guitar and Marsh’s push and pull on “Disagree to Agree” generate a teasing musical debate. Meditative patches give “If Only” an aura of regret, differing from the offbeat energy of “Hadron Collider.”
Zeitlin introduces a collection of voices on the playful tune “The Ascent,” a cinematic piece where the performers are at their most dramatic. The expansive “The Odyssey” is the record’s tour de force, a fascinating, weaving journey that continues on a triumphant arc. “The Maze” is another mysterious piece that leads listeners through unexpected turns. The recording concludes with electric “Fillmore Dreams,” a bombastic sendoff recalling rock concerts at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium back in the ‘60’s psychedelic era with distorted melody and high intensity percussion.
Lifelong partners in exploration, Denny Zeitlin and George Marsh feel that Telepathy is the best representation of their unique musical bond and unbounded enthusiasm for creation.
- Black Hole
- Moon Flower
- Boiling Point
- On The Move
- Disagree To Agree
- If Only
- Hadron Collider
- The Ascent
- Fillmore Dreams
Denny Zeitlin – acoustic piano, hardware & virtual synthesizers, keyboards
George Marsh – drums, percussion