issue 21 :: March 2012

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Review: Denman Maroney

Double Zero CD (Porter Records)

How I first heard Denman Maroney's amazing “hyperpiano” playing is a story of associations, one of those artists that you might only come across because you liked other similar musicians. Back when I was getting into Anthony Braxton I looked into many of the musicians who worked with him, which led me to bassist Mark Dresser who for several years in the '80s played with Braxton's quartet. I got into Dresser's recordings and discovered trumpeter Dave Douglas as well as Maroney. One of my favorite recordings is a trio album called “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” an interpretive soundtrack inspired by the old silent film classic, under Dresser's name and featuring Douglas and Maroney.
Maroney has developed a style very much indebted to Cage-esque prepared piano playing, modifying the strings with clamps, weights, various junk, who knows what, and alternates between something that incorporates the language of jazz with the inner workings of the instrument. And with such a rich instrument as a grand piano the variety is pretty wide. What sets him apart from mere experimentation is his massive talent and study as a musician. Maroney can bend notes with as much precision as an Indian classical player and his sense of rhythm and development through each track is dramatic and alien at the same time. Across this 50 minute recording (one piece divided into nine tracks) he mainly focuses on metallic scrapings inside the piano and only occasionally hitting keys in any normal way to augment certain resonances. The result is perhaps exhausting, but also intense, restless and beautiful.
Review by Jacob Green, a musician and film lover living in Austin, Texas.
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