Pianist Marilyn Crispell has been known to play some "out" jazz, on her lonesome and with fellow travelers Anthony Braxton, Peter Brotzmann, Mats Gustafason, Larry Ochs and Barry Guy. We're talking agitated, furious, energy-laden key-cracking, balanced by a rich, rhapsodic, intensively & thoughtful lyricism (a la Paul Bley and Bill Evans, as well as her chief influence, John Coltrane).
The Marilyn Crispell/Gary Peacock/Paul Motian trio's latest CD Amaryllis is more than a fine follow-up to their previous set, Nothing Ever Was, Anyway: The Music Of Annette Peacock - it is a unique event unto itself, where three super-fine players have such an empathy, such a communion, that the music seems to flow out of them. As good as Nothing Ever Was is, that album had a sometimes-chilly starkness to it, befitting Annette Peacock's economical compositions. Amaryllis is superior because of the intimate warmth of the session's over-all sound. This is quiet music, spacious, full of the less-is-more ethos, understated dynamics and a hushed, dignified passion, free of New Age-y insipidness or the self-absorbed meandering that some improv-outfits fall prey to. (Don't worry, Crispell & company do kick out the jams some.) A few tracks, including the title piece and "Voices" were (according to the liner notes) improvised in the studio, yet are so gracefully lyrical that they sound composed. Paul Motian is not "just" the drummer," he is a percussionist, playing his drum kit as subtly and sympathetic as Crispell and Peacock, his cymbal shimmers adding to the enchantment - he is not a "timekeeper," but an equal participant.
Amaryllis is not easy music, but it is certainly not difficult, either - it makes a demand on the listener, that he or she truly listen closely, to open up and get involved. I don't usually use the "L" word much, but this is a landmark album, up the with Bill Evans' trio sessions from the late 50s & early 60s and the 60s Paul Bley album "Closer."