By Ed Enright | Published July 2021
Telepathy is the third all-improvised duo album by Bay Area-based keyboardist Denny Zeitlin and drummer George Marsh, longtime friends who share a musical rapport that dates back to the 1960s. These two like-minded, free-spirited veterans have explored a full spectrum of musical styles — from jazz and classical to rock, electronics and free improv — over the course of their wide-ranging careers, frequently working side by side over the decades in various configurations with a virtual who’s who of esteemed bandleaders and sidemen. Their musical bond has strengthened further since 2013, when they began meeting every couple of months at Zeitlin’s home studio to record spontaneous compositions constructed entirely in the moment, right out of the ether. These regular get-togethers, which led to the 2015 release of Riding The Moment followed by 2017’s Expedition, continue to this day, and Telepathy is a brilliant showcase of just how far Zeitlin and Marsh have come as a creative team. It’s also a testament to the power of recent advancements in sound-shaping technology. Marsh plays acoustic drums and percussion throughout, while Zeitlin supplements his Steinway piano with a massive pallet of electronically generated tones he can access on the fly from his keyboards and breath controller: electric basses, synth basses, nylon- and steel-string guitars, pipes, wooden flutes, human voice samples, celestial choirs, analog horns, sci-fi synths, organs and lush, ambient pads aplenty; like a master painter, he always seems to find interesting combinations in his selection of tonal colors, and he deploys appropriate playing techniques to match the character of each virtual instrument he emulates. Like Marsh, who has a tendency to keep multiple balls in the air at all times, Zeitlin is a master of right-hand/left-hand independence, laying down serious bass lines while simultaneously conjuring an entire symphony of melodic statements and harmonic movements. These guys have become so adept at reading each other’s minds, and so comfortable responding to each other’s spontaneous moves, that many of the tracks on Telepathy come across as preconceived tunes performed by a full band. Other tracks smack of more traditional free-improv conversations. All taken together, Zeitlin and Marsh collectively succeed at assembling wildly divergent sounds and rhythms into coherent working structures while allowing the music — their music — to emerge entirely on its own.