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CD Review: Marilyn Crispell 

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Marilyn Crispell Vignettes
(2008, ECM Records)

Treasured local pianist Marilyn Crispell emerged on the modern jazz scene in the late 1970s, when she began her 15-year tenure with the Anthony Braxton Quartet. Building on the classical studies of her early years, the influential Crispell has created a singular style that bridges the aggressive attack of Cecil Taylor with the balladic introspection of Keith Jarrett. In recent years, however, over her three previous trio albums for ECM Crispell’s approach has drifted from the keyboard-strafing runs of Taylor to something that, while still suggesting Jarrett’s wistful lyricism, also palpably reflects the austere, monochromatic Scandinavian winter landscape that she cites as a current influence.

Though most of the 17 short pieces on the aptly titled Vignettes (the longest track, “Stilleweg,” clocks in at 6:18—brief, compared to much of Crispell’s output) are indeed pregnant with Bergmanesque brooding, Crispell’s patented discordant flurries haven’t evaporated entirely; see the feverish “Axis,” which finds the pianist’s hammering hands spiking the keys with the force of an IRT express train. Nothing ever was, anyway, Crispell’s 1996 ECM debut, is a double album of music by one of her neighbors, pioneering composer and performer Annette Peacock; for the mainly improvised Vignettes Crispell reaches out to another fellow Woodstocker for material: flutist and composer Jayna Nelson, whose “Cuida Tu Espiritu” offers perhaps as good a taste of this fine album’s bittersweet sadness as anything else on the track list. www.ecmrecords.com.

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  • Peter Aaron reviews Marilyn Crispell's latest album Vignettes.

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