[JPL] An Enthusiastic Welcome to a Haunt of Jazz Giants ...Marilyn Crispell Trio

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Fri Mar 2 16:47:23 EST 2007

March 1, 2007
Music Review | Marilyn Crispell Trio 
An Enthusiastic Welcome to a Haunt of Jazz Giants 

The pianist Marilyn Crispell ended her first set at
the Village Vanguard on Tuesday night according to
custom, reintroducing the members of her band. What
happened next was less typical. Lorraine Gordon, the
Vanguard’s owner, hurried onstage to announce that Ms.
Crispell had just played the club for the first time.
“And it was so beautiful,” Ms. Gordon said, before
requesting an encore. 

As endorsements from management go, this one was not
only unexpected but also emphatically deserved. Ms.
Crispell and her partners, the bassist Mark Helias and
the drummer Paul Motian, really had delivered
something palpably rare. Embracing melody and
dissonance, volubility and concision, they produced an
elevated art of fluctuations. 

The set opened and closed with more dynamic versions
of songs from “Storyteller” (ECM), a meditative album
the trio made a few years ago. “Limbo,” by Mr. Helias,
set a standard of feverishly abstracted lyricism: the
tempo warped and flickered, and the tonal center was a
firm but shifting ground. 

Mr. Motian’s “Flight of the Bluejay” began in a
pastoral vein, with Ms. Crispell playing chiming
arpeggios over a pedal drone. But during every
instance of the song’s recurring interjection — an
ascending sweep of sixteenth notes — she inched toward
turbulence. Mr. Motian and Mr. Helias, swirling around
her, were already there. 

Ms. Crispell can sound pristine or woolly, and she
courted both with full commitment, sometimes within a
single phrase. This was especially evident on the
ballads, an austere and lugubrious “You Don’t Know
What Love Is” and one handsome major-key theme apiece
by the guitarist Tisziji Muñoz and the pianist Agustí

The set’s freak-out moments were just as rewarding.
“Subway,” another piece by Mr. Helias, was a pianistic
scramble, like Paul Bley at his orneriest; Ms.
Crispell attacked it with savage determination. And
“Cosmology” served as an excuse for Mr. Motian, the
song’s composer, to thrash at a cymbal and thwack at
the rims of his toms. 

In Mr. Motian, who approached each downbeat from a
rakish angle, and Mr. Helias, who was dazzling in each
of his improvisations, Ms. Crispell has an
extraordinarily intuitive rhythmic team, as well as a
pair of equals. 

Her respect for that relationship borders on
deference: she played none of her own compositions in
Tuesday’s first set. But then came the command encore,
John Coltrane’s “Dear Lord.” Ms. Crispell owned it, as
authoritatively as if she had written it herself. 

Marilyn Crispell continues through Sunday at the
Village Vanguard, 178 Seventh Avenue South, at 11th
Street, West Village, (212) 255-4037 or


Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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