The god Terry Riley signing a fans CD after the show. (No photos were allowed during the concert.)
The god Terry Riley signing a fan's CD after the show. (No photos were allowed during the concert.) Dave Segal

Heads filled Benaroya's Nordstrom Recital Hall nearly to capacity last night to witness one of the greatest musicians ever, Terry Riley, and his gifted son Gyan, gently blot out the world's horrors with 75 minutes of musical telepathy. It was totally worth missing the Democratic presidential debate for.

With the elder Riley (now 84) on Nord Stage 3, piano, and iPad and the younger Riley on electric guitar and mini-guitar/sitar called Sonica™ koto (I think; I asked Terry after the show what the instrument is, and he just said "Sonica"), the two master musicians drew exquisite beauty from the minimalist-improvisational wellspring of their prodigious imaginations. Even though they rarely see each other—Terry lives in California and Gyan in New York—you could sense that their interplay was enhanced by their shared DNA. My ears cried rivers listening to and watching them; they were so in their element, so focused and enraptured by the gorgeous tones and melodies pouring forth.

The first piece, to my surprise and delight, carried echoes of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells (compliment!), A Rainbow in Curved Air, and Popol Vuh's more pastoral passages. When Gyan pulled out the Sonica™, he somehow made it sound like a synth Keith Emerson used in ELP.

Gyan played a lot of notes, but they were all the righteous ones. Sometimes he came off like a fleet-fingered but more humble Al Di Meola, other times he evoked the liquid-gold mellifluousness of Sensations' Fix's Franco Falsini and Popol Vuh's Daniel Fichelscher.

During the set's weirdest piece, Terry summoned from his iPad bizarre electronic textures that recalled the IDM heydays of the Warp and Mille Plateaux labels while Gyan wrenched out discordant chords from his Sonica™ that hinted at Stark Reality's John Abercrombie. There were also ballads featuring Terry's pleasantly weathered and deep voice and Pandit Pran Nath-like raga chants and a few mercurial piano crescendos and manic repetitions that brought to mind Suicide's Martin Rev, of all people.

Toward the middle of the concert, Terry manifested that famously sublime chord progression from the far left side of the piano while Gyan deftly paraphrased the tinkly burbles of "Desert of Ice," thus triggering acid flashbacks from my first listen to Shri Camel—on most days, my favorite Riley album. This was the supreme blessing in a performance abounding with them.