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.

O'Donoghue's highly abstracted figure paintings are musically echoed as the three players meld swinging tonality with departures from the expected, without loss of momentum. A tune such as “Return of Ulysses” for instance, balances Crispell’s double-time kinetics with regularized patterns from the piano’s lowest pitches which maintain the theme, even as she’s creating new variations on it as if making indentations on cooling asphalt. Crispell was initially influenced by Cecil Taylor, so a piece like “Dark Days” approximates Taylor’s jagged power, especially when coupled with Guy’s spiccato string slices, But Crispell is enough of a melodist to throw in references to the bagpipe air “The Campbells Are Coming”, so as not to lose the swing feel.

Other compositions, such as the languid “Blue Horizon” and more profoundly “Sleeper” are the equivalent of a visual artist’s ability to abstractly splash paint on canvas precisely because of demonstrated skill as a portraitist. No shuteye-inducer, although initially played with tortoise lumbering deliberation, “Sleeper” instead showcases the pianist’s pedal-pressured soundboard vibrations plus hard patterns from Lytton. Cymbal smacks and piano glissandi prod the melody to triple its pace in its final two minutes. Throughout the CD, the three are like fine art restorers of neglected canvases. The ambulatory allusions they bring to the material via buzzes, stretches and echoes sonically brighten themes suggested by O'Donoghue’s mostly murky colors. A key instance of this is titled “Silenced Music”. But actually created is communicative music due to the trio members’ sophisticated interaction.

Track Listing: Scent; Fallen Angel; Sleeper; Blue Horizon; Return of Ulysses; Silenced Music; Dark Days

Personnel: Marilyn Crispell (piano); Barry Guy (bass) and Paul Lytton (drums)

—For The New York City Jazz Record March 2017