Bobby Shew / Bill Mays: Telepathy

Nicholas F. Mondello BY

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Bobby Shew / Bill Mays: Telepathy
Trumpet and piano duo albums are relatively rare. Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines' "Weather Bird" (1928) was a groundbreaker, although a single. Oscar Peterson and Dizzy Gillespie (Pablo, 1974) and Clark Terry's One on One (Chesky Records, 1999), where CT played with fourteen different jazz pianists, come to mind. Telepathy, a horn-piano collaboration featuring trumpeter Bobby Shew and pianist Bill Mays, continues the tradition—and, brilliantly so. Originally recorded in 1978 and released in 1982, the session is an exploration in musicianship, sensitivity and utterly superb improvisation.

The artists whose resumes are extensive—Shew with the big bands of Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, et al, at the Hollywood studios, and the small groups of Horace Silver, and Mays with everyone from Art Pepper to Frank Zappa, in all ensemble sizes, offer predominantly well-known GASsers for the completely extemporaneously performed session. Two free-form tunes—the title track and "Telepathy II"—are highlights and add to the dynamism of this collaboration. And most tracks were first takes.

"It Might As Well Be Spring" awakens with Mays setting pastel colors and with Shew's rubato poetry via a lush, expressive flugelhorn. "Poor Butterfly" has Shew's Harmon dancing over Mays' comps before Mays delivers his first extended solo—a terrific one. Throughout that track and the entire session, melody and texture dominate. The musical palette here is pastel and soft. However, the interplay between these two is electric, involving and enticing. Shew's flugel is especially tone-rich and his ability to draw colors from dynamics and inflection touches is superb. As it was with with the album's dedicated artist—Miles Davis—simplicity can say the most, and Shew's sketches, whether brief or extended, always swing and speak volumes. Mays, ever the explorer whenever he performs, is the perfect partner for this type of effort. He is inventive, supportive, and has a wizard's keyboard approach in developing his own ideas and responding to what musically spirals with his partner.

"Telepathy" is an introspective, meditative free-form experiment. The track is seductive, drawing one into the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic dimensions. Luis Bonfa's "Gentle Rain" is rendered straight bossa. "You've Changed" is a showcase for Shew's azure lyricism, with Mays setting a platform before his own elegant solo. "Indian Summer," taken up tempo, swings heavy. Both players stretch out with ace solos. "Telepathy II" closes the session with a second venture into the free where trills lead to motifs, responses, and shimmering delights.

Such a brilliant effort as Telepathy can only be achieved by artists of sensitivity and vast creative depth. It is joyous experience.

Track Listing

It Might As Well Be Spring, Poor Butterfly, Yesterdays, Telepathy, The Gentle Rain, You've Changed, Indian Summer, Telepathy II.


Bobby Shew: trumpet; Bill Mays: piano.

Album information

Title: Telepathy | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Fresh Sound Records

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