Marilyn Crispell: Vignettes (ECM/Ode)

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Marilyn Crispell: Valse Triste
Marilyn Crispell: Vignettes (ECM/Ode)

American pianist Crispell was a longtime member of saxophonist Anthony Braxton's often demanding quartet, and that alone tells you she knows what it means to be put on the spot under the spotlight.

Braxton's was assiduously thoughtful improvised music which sometimes had the discipline of mathematical construction. But with sweat.

The ECM label however often invites a more contemplative approach, and that is exactly the mood Crispell invokes on her first solo album for the label in these meditative and poised pieces. Sort of piano haiku if you will.

Many of the pieces are specifically evocative (Valse Triste, Gathering Light, Time Past) and others are short improvisations which take their title from the collection, numbered pieces of which Vignette II is about as close to silence and Zen nothingness as you can imagine. Lovely.

On the other hand, Vignette III which follows is a one minute arm-wrestle of notes and muscular phrases. Brevity is the key element in the Vignettes (only one comes close to the three minute mark) but it is in the longer pieces where ideas are developed and explored -- and here Crispell stakes a strong claim to being one of the most daring yet considered pianists in improvised music today.

Listening music, if you know what I mean.

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