More than anything else, The Adornment of Time, a live encounter between drummer/percussionist Tyshawn Sorey and pianist Marilyn Crispell from the Kitchen in 2018, is among the most aptly titled improvised recordings in many years. According to Sorey, the music from Greenwich Village on this October evening "…represents the culmination of the several journeys embarked upon by Marilyn and me over the past five years of collaborative opportunities." Besides the instruments, audience, and the performance space, what exists between and around these two is time: Forever passing, ever present, and always falling forward into the next moment.
Every sound we hear commences from a single wooden "thok." As it re-enters, silence, bells, chimes, scrapes, single-rolled tom-toms, and a kick drum extend the ghost trace of that initial utterance. Crispell's single, muted keys begin a minimal, monosyllabic response to dialogue with Sorey's sounds before their joint echoes begin a multivalent conversation from several viewpoints simultaneously. For nearly 65 minutes, their interaction begets inquiry and investigation that in turn begets declamations, questions, and discoveries that serve to propel communication -- with silence, with one another, and with time itself -- deeper and wider than either of the participants could have conceived.
After nearly 20 minutes and a series of triads, Crispell's singular use of sculpted force prompts dramatic responses from Sorey. While the playing can be fleet and fierce, it is free of unnecessary tension. Their sonic swell is "colorful," a breathing series of crescendos that reach toward one another across the timescape in an immediate harmonic unfolding that exists outside artificial notions of genre or concepts of individual composition. They entwine as individuals, and as a unit speak together. The music separates and congeals in combinations at times fierce and thunderous or delicate yet intricately active with everything existing between and beyond these poles. The pair's close listening is like the exercise of breath; it's an articulation of sound, space, and dynamic that continuously renews itself according to creative, evolving textural contours that result in the "new." By the time they conclude The Adornment of Time, they have traveled far and taken their listeners with them through a pregnant sense of time painted with emotional, spiritual, and intellectual ideas and profound feelings. This is as much as any musical encounter can offer, let alone provide, and Sorey and Crispell deliver both.