Marilyn Crispell / Paul Motian / Gary Peacock


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The gathering of this trio in February of 2000 guaranteed little except that they had demonstrated ably -- on Nothing Ever Was Anyway: The Music of Annette Peacock -- the ability to play together almost symbiotically. This follow-up attempts to extend the trio's reach across Peacock's music and into the terrain of the trio as an entity in and of itself. That said, not all the pieces here are new; in fact, some of them are decades old -- Marilyn Crispell's "Rounds" is from 1981, Gary Peacock's "Voices of the Past" and "December Greenwings" are both from the early '80s, and Paul Motian's "Conception Vessel/Circle Dance" is from the early '70s. The trio brings to these vintage pieces not only new eyes, but the freshness of this relationship and the willingness to reinvent them. In addition to the older works, producer Manfred Eicher asked the group to improvise a number of pieces just for the session. The results of this combination are quite remarkable. Perhaps the most noticeably gripping is the melodic invention in Crispell's playing. While it's true she has often displayed her lyrical side in free improvisation, she has never done so to this extent or with this much restraint. No matter where the improvisation goes, no matter whose tune she's playing, Crispell insists on harmony and an inventive yet attentive melodic framework as the session's basis. A shining example is on Peacock's "Voices From the Past," where his opening modal bassline is graced over by Crispell's pianistic melody, offering both line and harmony for Peacock to insert his lyric bassing. Motian uses his slip-dance on the cymbals to offer her just enough counterpoint to create a crystalline, droning melody that gleams in the darkness of the minor key signatures. On the brief title track, Crispell's tune, Peacock once again opens with the time signature and the underside of the melody. Motian joins him to usher in a minimal melodic architecture by Crispell. Short arpeggios are woven into diminished chords and the texture of the interplay. This is improvisation at its most restrained, its most closely listened to, executed with hushed yet dynamic brilliance and emotion. Crispell's "Rounds" echoes Mal Waldron and Dave Burrell in its angular architecture. Peacock takes the piece through from underneath, playing a modal counterpoint to Crispell's sharply arpeggiated harmony. The set ends with "Prayer," an anthem-like hymn. Motian taps out a restrained magisterial rhythm on his ride cymbal with satiny flourishes on the high hat, as Crispell calls Peacock forth from the middle registers and he drones his assent to a chorded melody that moves from augmented sevenths to flatted fifth to major chords. One can hear everyone from Thomas Dorsey to Bill Evans, but underneath it all, is the exacting hand (if the young Claudio Arrau played jazz, he may have sounded like this) and enormous, tender heart of Crispell, calling the piece -- and set -- to a close. More than a follow-up to their first work together, on Amaryllis, Crispell, Peacock, and Motian have established a new yet authoritative voice in melodic improvisation for the jazz trio.

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