Denny Zeitlin & George Marsh – Telepathy – Sunnyside

by | Jul 29, 2021 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Electro-acoustic improvisation which inclines from intense to introspective.

Denny Zeitlin & George Marsh – Telepathy – [TrackList follows] – Sunnyside SSC 1620, 76:47 [6/25/21] ****:

(Denny Zeitlin – acoustic piano, hardware and virtual synthesizers, keyboards; George Marsh – drums, percussion)

Keyboardist Denny Zeitlin and longtime musical partner George Marsh (drums/percussion) continue their collaborative connection on the nearly 77-minute Telepathy, their third and most recent album of spontaneously created electro​-​acoustic compositions. The two previously mixed acoustics and electronic elements on 2015’s Riding the Moment and 2017’s Expedition. These projects expand on explorative material Zeitlin and Marsh worked on in the 1970s, such as 1973’s Expansion (on Zeitlin’s imprint Double Helix) and 1977’s Syzygy (a trio outing evidently named after the astronomical term for a configuration of three celestial bodies); Telepathy also echoes Zeitlin’s influential 1978 soundtrack for Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers film remake (long out of print, the soundtrack was reissued in 2003 on CD).

In the CD notes Zeitlin explains why, after a few decades of acoustic jazz, he returned to electro-acoustic music. “With the passage of the millennium, synthesizer and recording technological advances lured me back into a major and ongoing studio upgrade. Both/And (Sunnyside 2013) was devoted to the electro-acoustic domain as a soloist. And since 2013, George and I have musically re-united, and have been exploring the potential of duo electro-acoustic free improvisations.” Zeitlin’s Double Helix home studio has a Steinway piano, keyboards, computers, monitors, pedals, breath controllers and electronics plus percussion and a drum set which allows for utmost adaptability while recording in real time.

The inventiveness and flexibility can be heard throughout the 14 tracks on Telepathy, from the opening “Highlands”—where Zeitlin utilizes digital keyboards to reproduce a Scottish bagpipe sound—to the concluding “Fillmore Dreams,” where Zeitlin reconstructs psychedelic-era guitar pyrotechnics via electronic keyboards. The tone and tempos vary during the album’s course, providing upbeat and somber instances. The optimistic “Quicksilver” is a representation of fusion with Zeitlin generating a Herbie Hancock-like sound while Marsh keeps the rhythmic core moving literally and latterly. During “Boiling Point” Zeitlin balances acoustic and electronic items with the feeling someone perceives before an impending storm, a recognition that things might get intense. This kind of changeable music characteristic would have made an excellent movie score for Takeshi Kitano’s 1990 crime film Boiling Point. There’s also a cinematic quality to lighthearted “The Ascent,” where Zeitlin uses keyboard-created voices and peppy acoustic piano fills to amplify the tune’s movielike mannerism.

The outlook shifts and ebbs on pieces such as the pensive “Moon Flower,” highlighted by Zeitlin’s melancholy piano, choir-like digital voices and Marsh’s impelling work on his drum kit. There’s a similar subdued stance to the introspective “If Only,” which is tinted by an atmosphere of lament or remorse. The lengthiest and most notable piece is the nearly 11-minute “Odyssey,” an intriguing, multi-tiered musical expedition which includes percolating percussion, flute-like synth washes, idiosyncratic electronic slices, dissonant intervals, and a progression which mirrors a three-act script with an initial summary, conflict, and a finishing resolution. Sometimes, acoustic-electronic music is flawed by elevating the technology at the expense of music which has substance and individuality. Zeitlin and Marsh, however, jettison any cold restraints from their technological foundations and focus on sophisticated, masterful and stylish music.

Black Hole
Moon Flower
Boiling Point
On the Move
Disagree to Agree
If Only
Hadron Collider
The Ascent
Fillmore Dreams 

—Doug Simpson

For more information, please visit Sunnyside Records website:

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Zeitlin, Denny & George Marsh - Telepathy, Album Cover

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