You, me, the music, and me.

Thursday, August 31, 2006


ECM 1847 (2004)

Pianist Marilyn Crispell made a name for herself in the eighties and early nineties playing in Anthony Braxton's quartet; it was there that she adapted her thunderous Cecil Taylor-esque style to Braxton's intricate charts, creating a uniquely identifiable sound within the realms of free jazz and improvised music. Since then, she's honed her sound to its essentials, creating a style that is at once calm and turbulent, reflective and probing. Her spare, haunting melodies are a perfect match for her current label, ECM, which is known for its pristine production and the cool, almost "wintry" atmosphere of its recordings.

Storyteller was recorded with bassist Mark Helias and drummer Paul Motian. On it, Crispell moves even farther away from the controlled tumult of her Braxton performances than on her previous albums for ECM (Nothing ever was, anyway and Amaryllis), producing a recording of quiet, sublime beauty. The opening track, "Wild Rose", sets the mood immediately; each player produces single notes or beats that are allowed to die away before the next is produced. On this album, echo is like a fourth member of the group. The trio takes its time with each piece; themes appear to be built out of improvisations, instead of the other way around.

Storyteller and the music of Marilyn Crispell are perfect for late-night listening, whether you want gentle background music or intricate improvised jazz that unfolds its stories one note at a time. (A quick glance at her concert schedule shows "possible dates in Canada" for May 17-21, 2007, which means she may be playing FIMAV in Victoriaville, Quebec. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!)


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