Monday, September 30, 2013

Denny Zeitlin, Both/And, Solo Electro-Acoustic Adventures

Pianist-keyboardist Denny Zeitlin got off to an auspicious start in the '60s with a series of piano trio recordings that showed an advanced harmonic-melodic imagination and real improvising prowess. In the '70s he integrated synthesizers into his music, making a set of "progressive" sides that showed a fused outlook devoid of some of the cliches that sometimes plagued the music made then. With the '80s-'90s Zeitlin returned to the acoustic side of his music. But in the decade to follow he began taking advantage of the advances inherent in MIDI-based sound modulator synths and their wider palette of sampled and synthesized sounds.

That experience led to a sonically diverse, near orchestral solo style that bears significant fruit in the new release Both/And (Sunnyside 1352). It's an entire album of improvisations/spontaneous compositions created on acoustic piano and an array of sampling/synthesizing gear.

There will of course be those who dislike all electronics on principal. Nothing I say here will, I suspect, have any bearing on their beliefs. They are entitled to them--and so be it. For those, however, with more open ears/minds this album holds much of interest, even delight.

Of course the first thing to consider is that the modern electronic instruments are just that, instruments. Like a Hammond B-3 or a cathedral organ they have a certain number of sounds that can be accessed. With the sampling capabilities of the modern synths there are more unlimited possibilities, but always within the finite framework of the instrument(s) and their capabilities. The trick with any instrument of this sort, just like an organ or even a harpsichord, is what you bring musically to the situation, how you "orchestrate" your sound and with what musical elements.

And perhaps what is most striking about this disk is that. Not the sounds, which have interest within themselves in any event, but the improvisational imagination, the inventive orchestrational musical mind of Denny Zeitlin. That is what makes this music have a certain consistent excellence, his ultra-creative, generative knack. It is everywhere to be heard on these tracks. What perhaps is most remarkable is how the line creating, harmonically expansive, rhythmically alive Zeitlin comes through intact, rather brilliantly so.

Those who only want acoustic music can leave this one alone. They will miss out on some first-rate Zeitlin however. For the rest of us, there is Both/And. We do not need to chose between acoustic and electric because Zeitlin builds on top of both aspects of his playing and of the music at large.

Impressive and delightful!

No comments:

Post a Comment