Marilyn Crispell


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Blue is easily the most mysterious and beguiling of pianist Marilyn Crispell's many releases. Recorded in duet with Italian reed and woodwind wizard Stefano Maltese, Crispell recorded 11 spontaneous improvisations, all centered around the notion of color as sound, and placed that supposition in various settings reflected by the individual pieces titles: "Breath of Sun," "Ring Around Circle," "Roof of Sky," "So Glad to Be Sad," etc. There is also a very loose cover of "You Don't Know What Love Is" that fits here perfectly with the way its harmonic and chromatic terrains have been raided for tonal and dynamic nuances. Blue is the opposite of Crispell's fiery, hundred-notes-a-second approach to improvisation and is far closer to the temperament displayed on Amaryllis -- although there are moments of sublime and intense dissonance such as on "Behind the Wings," which feels like a blue jay in mid-morning ramble and confrontation with everything around him. Maltese's interactions with Crispell are articulated on any number of instruments, including but not limited to soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet, and flute. His breathing seems to pace the pianist, who moves up and down the middle register looking for sync energy and, once that is found, a kind of melodic frame for certain ideas that have come up during that process. On the final two cuts, the great Italian vocalist Gioconda Cilio joins the duo for worded and wordless improvising that contributes deep, breathy atmospherics that has as much to do with elongating the breath of all the players as it does with tonal inquiries. Through it all, Crispell uses a Zen-like detachment, engaging each player and the music itself openly, but without exuberance, preferring to remain outside its ever widening circle of hues, textures, tempos, whispers, and screams. This is a jazz record that moves the definition of jazz to a margin; which one isn't exactly clear, except to say that it is new and welcome and warm and heartbreakingly, poetically beautiful

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