[15 June 2008]
Pianist Marilyn Crispell, according to her bio, trained at the New England Conservatory and played nothing but classical music until she was 28. Then, transfixed by Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, she turned towards jazz, playing over the next several decades with Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, Barry Guy and the Reggie Workman trio, and, most recently Paul Motian and Gary Peacock. Here, in the solo album Vignettes, Crispell brings together both sides of her experience, in a series of 17 mostly improvised pieces that tread the line between contemporary classical and jazz, compositional structure and improvisation.
Seven abstract “Vignettes” frame the album, brief distillations of moods and ideas that are, perhaps, the most challenging elements of the CD. The longer, named pieces are, in general, more lyrical, “Valse Triste” moody and full of searching pauses, “Time Past” awash in romantic longing, the extended “Sweden” jazz-like in its thoughtful exploration of themes. Crispell improvised most of the tracks, but a few were based on existing pieces. “Stilleweg” follows a composition by Arve Henrikson, the trumpet player from Norway’s Supersilent, while the melody of “Cuida Tu Espirito” comes from a piece written by flutist Janya Nelson. The whole disc is surpassingly beautiful, full of clarity and shimmering with melancholy introspection. It would be a shame if only the jazz cognescenti or the classical avant-garde took notice of Vignettes, because has a elegiac loveliness that any music fan can appreciate.