Reviews that mention Marilyn Crispell

October 8, 2019

Raymond MacDonald/Marilyn Crispell

Songs along the Way
Babel Label BDV 17149

Hans Koch/Jacques Demierre


Herbal Concrete Disc 1901



Amirani AMRN 055


Thousand Seconds of Our Life

NoBusiness Records NBCDLT 3

Seemingly simple, when extrapolated by dedicated improvisers the album-long melding of piano and reed tones is actually much more complex. That’s because, as this quartet of discs confirms, the end product can range from brushes with the mainstream, even without playing shopworn melodies, to the furthest stretches of sound explorations. MORE

April 17, 2019

Harvey Sorgen Joe Fonda Marilyn Crispell

NotTwo MK 977-2

Pandelis Karayorgis Trio


Driff Records CD 1803


Quince Dreams

Creative Sources CS 495

The Room

Time & Space

el NEGOCITO Records eNR084

With a history now as old as Rock’n’Roll, but unlike that inward turning genre, the Jazz piano trio continues to be a method of original expression for many players. Without altering its basic shape, savvy musicians can use the format to be as traditional or as ingenious as possible. Luckily the 12 players on these discs – two American and two European trios – excel on the latter path. MORE

March 8, 2019

Marilyn Crispell/Tanya Kalmanovitch/Richard Teitelbaum

Dream Libretto
Leo Records CD LR 849

By Ken Waxman

A rare departure for American pianist Marilyn Crispell and Canadian violinist Tanya Kalmanovitch, who are usually involved with spiky improvisational work, this mostly sombre program instead deals with loss and regeneration reflected in a five-part Crispell composition for trio and seven duo improvisations.

Showcased, “Memoria/For Pessa Malka” is the pianist’s formal composition, and evolves in different sequences to reflect the emotions she felt following the recent deaths of close relatives and friends. Crucially, Richard Teitelbaum’s wave-form processing is funeral parlor-like muted, with the requisite sense of mourning really conveyed by brief violin sweeps that help amplify the pianist’s low-frequency threnody. Luckily when the final sequence is heard, Crispell has shaken off enough melancholy to enliven the coda with chiming piano chords. MORE

May 7, 2018

Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra

The Word for It Now
FMR CD 458-0817

Ensemble SuperMusique

Les Porteuses D’Ȏ

Ambiances Magnétiques AM 239 CD


Le Tombeau de Poulenc

Yolk Records J2069

The Dorf/N


Umland Records 53

Large Unit


PNL Records PNL 038

Something in the Air: Rethinking the Large Ensemble

By Ken Waxman

Just as definitions of various forms of music has changed over the decades, so has the interpretation of what exactly constitutes a large jazz or improvised music orchestra. Sure there are still plenty of bands that stick to the popular Ellington-Basie mode with a fixed number of players and tunes. But that’s longer the norm. As music becomes more open and global, orchestral and so-called exotic instruments beef up the sections; a pre-determined number of players in each section is ignored and the use of electric instruments and electronics has soared. Equally outstanding in execution, here are some instances of how uniquely constituted large ensembles operate. MORE

March 6, 2017

Barry Guy/Marilyn Crispell/Paul Lytton

Deep Memory
Intakt CD 273

By Ken Waxman

Suspended between expressive romanticism and energetic atonality, the fourth CD by pianist Marilyn Crispell, bassist Barry Guy and drummer Paul Lytton, confirms not only the solidity of this sporadically assembled trio, but also its suitability as vehicle for Guy’s compositions. Like a writer whose mastery of the crystalline short story is matched by an ability to also pen complex novels, the bassist’s thoughtful compositions for the likes of the London Composers’ Orchestra (LJCO) suffer no loss of zest when played by small groups like this. Deep Memory’s seven compositions also throb with reflections of the draftsmanship and color application of selected works by British artist Hughie O'Donoghue, whose paintings provide the track titles and the cover image. MORE

December 16, 2014

Raymond MacDonald & Marilyn Crispell

Parallel Moments
Babel BDV 13125

Agustí Fernández/Mats Gustafsson


Clamshell CR23

Despite their perceptible differences – a Scott and an American recorded in a 2010 concert; a Swede and a Catalan recorded in a studio in 2013 – these superlative saxophone-piano duos have more in common throughout their 10-track CDs than the fact that none of the four players accept Jazz’s contemporary status quo.

For despite Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson’s reputation as an untamed reed explorer as opposed to Glasgow’s Raymond MacDonald as a more classicist Free stylist, when either plays soprano saxophone here, the results are as sensitive as could be from men whose vocabulary long ago internalized the advances of saxophonist as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Evan Parker and Peter Brötzmann. Elsewhere, Gustafsson is suitably bellicose on baritone; and McDonald more abrasive on alto. The other point of congruence is that while American pianist Marilyn Crispell was first known for her rugged style, which aimed to translate Coltrane’s expanded vibrations to the keyboard, she’s quite subdued at the beginning of her duos on this disc; only become more rigorously experimental and percussive as the recital unrolls. In contrast, Catalan Agustí Fernández, who brings matchless so-called classical technique as well as cooperative strategies from working in larger and smaller ensembles, is the soundboard roughneck here. While the American only tries out preparation on her strings in the CD’s penultimate minute, Fernández’s strings and keys are prepped for musical combat from the first. His strokes, plucks, echoes and thrusts not only demand tough ripostes from Gustafsson, but also sonically introduce electronics insinuations. MORE

June 13, 2013

Didier Petit-Alexandre Pierrepont

RogueArt ROG-0042

By Ken Waxman

While the ‘50s were the heyday for “Jazz with Poetry” recordings, leave it to the French to create a “Jazz without Poetry” recording. Unlike say Jack Kerouac reading his works while Zoot Sims improvises beside him in the studio, the musicians here improvise while listening to Alexandre Pierrepont’s poetry through headphones. Further confounding the paradigm, Pierrepont reads in French, then an English-speaker reads the same passage in French idiosyncratically altering the meaning. Very occasionally snatches of field recordings, including guitar strums or soprano vocalizing leak into the mix, but except for once, nothing of the poem is heard. MORE

September 16, 2012

Stone Quartet

Live at the Vision Festival
Ayler Records aylCD 124

MMM Quartet

Live at the Metz Arsenal

Leo Records CD LR 631

Two high-quality CDs, recorded in a live setting with French bassist Joëlle Léandre as the unifying factor, are superficially similar in intent and personnel. Yet the multiple strategies each quartet brings to the extended selections demonstrate how unique sounds can result even in the most comfortable of surroundings.

Live at the Vision Festival captures the triumphant performance of what might be called Léandre’s New York quartet, filled out by trumpeter/flutist Roy Campbell, pianist Marilyn Crispell and violist Mat Maneri. Although recorded in France, Live at the Metz Arsenal, joins the bassist with two colleagues who teach at California’s Mills College – Alvin Curran on electronics and piano, best known for his notated work and membership in the MEV ensemble, and guitarist Fred Frith, whose entry into improv came through his Art-Rock bands like Henry Cow. Although MMM could stand for “MillsMusicMafia”, some Continental spice joins the West Coast greenery in the presence of Swiss soprano and tenor saxophonist Urs Leimgruber, who has been in other bands with Léandre, including Quartet Noir which also included Crispell. MORE

September 3, 2010

Marilyn Crispell David Rothenberg

One Dark Night I Left My Silent House
ECM 2089

Chris Brown/Pauline Oliveros

Music in the Air

Deep Listening DL 43-2010

John Zorn/George Lewis/Bill Frisell

More News For Lulu

hatOLOGY 655

Marina Rosenfeld/George Lewis

Sour Mash

Innova 228

Guelph Jazz Festival Highlights

Extended Play

By Ken Waxman

Characteristically adventurous, the 17th annual Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF) September 8 to 12 presents respected sound explorers in novel musical situations. MORE

March 8, 2010

Guelph Jazz Festival

Guelph, Ontario
September 9 - 13, 2009

Always populist, the annual Guelph Jazz Festival extended its support of outdoor improvisation plus interaction between Third and First World musicians in its 16th edition, without lessening its commitment to Free Music. Much of the outstanding music-making came from the later however, with American pianist Marilyn Crispell one standout.

Featured in American, European and Canadian group settings, Crispell’s playing was powerful and outer-directed at the River Run Centre concert hall, in a trio with two AACM stalwarts, seemingly ageless tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson and colorful percussionist Hamid Drake, whose rhythmic conception is comfortable in any context. Anderson often quivered or vibrated reflective lines that were paralleled with linear arpeggios or kinetic pedal-pushed frequencies by Crispell. Meantime Drake’s palm or stick movement conveyed all the rhythm. Climax was a version of Muñoz’s “Fatherhood”, built on ecclesiastical chording from the pianist, ruffs and rebounds from Drake and gospel-like preaching from Anderson. MORE

November 20, 2008

The Stone Quartet

DMG @ The Stone - Vol 1.

Staggeringly producing enough tonal colors and timbral delineations to suggest a much larger group, the Stone Quartet has created an improvisational opus with this CD – a faithful reproduction of a single set the ensemble played in the New York performance space.

This comprehensive exhibit of remarkable polyphony should come as no surprise, since the band consists of four innovators of in-the-moment music-making: Americans trumpeter Roy Campbell violist Mat Maneri and pianist Marilyn Crispell, plus French bassist Joëlle Léandre. Shorter, intuitive Maneri-Léandre and Campbell-Crispell duets are sandwich between substantial, extended quartet interactions that define the group’s strengths. MORE

September 3, 2008

Dreamy Piano

Marilyn Crispell solo
Buffalo, N.Y. April 13, 2008

Pianist Marilyn Crispell seemed to be negotiating an itinerary between elegiac and energetic during a solo performance at Buffalo’s Halwalls Contemporary Arts Center in mid-April. Surprisingly the first-ever gig in this upstate New York city for the Woodstock, N.Y.-native, her well-attended recital found the diminutive pianist scattering textures or smacking notes all over the keyboard while attempting to resolve those contradictions. Finally settling on the emotive side of the equation, she still managed to often expose thorny note clusters and a muscular touch along the way. MORE

July 14, 2006

NOW Orchestra and Marilyn Crispell

VICTO cd 097

By Ken Waxman

Without a whiff of prima-donna-meets-local-musicians attitude, Woodstock, N.Y. pianist/composer Marilyn Crispell is newest out-of-town guest on this collaboration with Vancouver’s venerable creative music collective, the New Orchestra Workshop (NOW) Orchestra.

Consisting of a clutch of Vancouver’s top improvisers who also lead their own bands, the 13-piece NOW Orchestra has in the past worked with such individualistic composers as Québécois guitarist René Lussier and then California-based trombonist George Lewis. Unlike those strong personalities, Crispell – best-known for her tenure in reedist Anthony Braxton’s 1980s-1990s quartet – assumes the piano chair on Pola as if she has been part of the ensemble for years. MORE

May 29, 2006


Victo cd 096


Serendipitously recorded eight days apart, these mixed Euro-American quartet CDs with similar instrumentation couldn’t be more different – and that statement encompasses a lot more than personnel or geography.

Matching one of the founders of German Free Jazz with three younger, London-based improvisers is VESUVIUS, an all-out recording session firmly in the Energy Music genre. LUGANO, which is described as “a suite in three movements”, is as much minimalism as Free Improv, with the three Europeans and one American consolidating a series of understated timbres and waveforms into a collection of tones. Amazingly – or perhaps not – both CDs reach the goal of positive music making, though admittedly LUGANO’s are more micro. MORE

April 18, 2005


Intakt CD 096

More of a rethinking of the spatial and dominant arrangements of a piano trio by bassist Barry Guy than a follow up to this threesome’s first CD, ITHACA gives him ample scope to outline new strategies with which to subvert the most traditional of improv groupings.

It’s no overtly radical response, but it’s done differently than how pianist Marilyn Crispell, percussionist Paul Lytton and Guy approached ODYSSEY (Intakt CD 070). Unlike that session, this disc contains no miniaturization of London Jazz Composers Orchestra themes, and almost no references to any genre outside of Free Music. Additionally, Crispell, who has a tendency towards classical delicacy – an inclination expressed on ODYSSEY and other CDs – becomes a vigorous note chopper this time out. Nine out of the 11 compositions – including three miniature shards – are Guy’s. The other two are instant compositions to which all three contribute. MORE

May 10, 2002


Live In Berlin
Soul Note SN 120069-2

Listening to this disc almost 20 years after it was recorded in a Berlin concert you can hear how much pianist Marilyn Crispell has changed -- and remained the same -- since that time.

Very much a product of the epoch, the band is performing a version of energy music, not unlike that practiced by tenor saxophonist John Coltrane’s quartet -- one of her acknowledged influences -- with Crispell in the McCoy Tyner or Alice Coltrane role and violinist Billy Bang taking on the Trane mantle. At the same time, having a violin as a solo voice brings up memories of those groups featuring fiddlers like Ramsey Ameen and Leroy Jenkins and led by Cecil Taylor, another Crispell totem. MORE

January 8, 2002


Intakt CD 070

Piano trios featuring bass and drums have, since at least the late 1940s, been the proving ground and identity test for jazz keyboardists. With the overhanging monuments of Oscar Peterson’s and Bill Evans’s trios at either extreme of the landscape, it seems that every mainstream pianist worth his Steinway has to stake his or her claim in that terrain.

Yet the challenge of subverting this accepted formation is such, that even iconoclastic figures like Misha Mengelberg, Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols have also recorded this way. Marilyn Crispell too, along with other formations, has made a variety of piano trio discs with such partners as bassists Barry Guy, Mark Dresser and Reggie Workman, most often with drummer Gerry Hemingway. Right now, in fact, her two recent anemic outings on ECM with famed bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Paul Motion have come closer to giving her mainstream fame than anything she’s ever done before. MORE

July 23, 2001


ECM 1742 440 013 400-2

This album, named after a flower that grows in winter, is like a precious hothouse blossom compared to the unruly wild weeds that make up much of the rest of pianist Marilyn Crispell's discography.

Usually thought of as an unreconstructed free jazz player, this trio disc seems designed to allow her to get in touch with her inner Keith Jarrett or Bill Evans. No surprise there, because singly or together, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Paul Motian worked in the rhythm section of both those influential keyboard specialists. MORE