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Marilyn Crispell/Gerry Hemingway: Table of Changes

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Marilyn Crispell’s ECM recordings, including duets with bassist Gary Peacock and trio sessions that added Paul Motian, revealed the more delicate, lyrical side of the pianist’s playing, which both complemented and contrasted her prior work in true-blue free jazz. Reuniting with drummer Gerry Hemingway, a longtime bandmate in her earlier trios and in Anthony Braxton’s quartet, puts Crispell back on a thoroughly avant-garde track, and the final product sounds nothing less than joyful. The two longtime friends met up on a European tour two years ago, and this disc captures highlights from those performances.

Crispell takes the knotty influence of Cecil Taylor and switches out some of the percussive attack for more pensive melodic moments. After the opening blast of “Spirings,” the dynamics shift and Hemingway moves from his kit to the vibraphone for droning tones on the gentle “Waterwisp.” The duo uses this same instrument combination on “Assembly,” with the vibraphone’s longer phrases standing starkly against Crispell’s brief clusters of notes.”Ev’rytime We Say Goodbye,” beginning with just a series of sustained piano chords, slowly reveals itself. Hemingway adds only the sparest of percussive accompaniment, putting the song in a new light and also making a statement about how dear friends feel at the end of two weeks of deep onstage discussion. It’s bittersweet, not maudlin, plumbing emotional depths even in its simplicity.

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