Consider for a moment that Marilyn Cripsell came to jazz/improvised music — what she calls spontaneous composition — at age 28. Her early musical education was almost entirely based around the classical, Baroque, or modern classical canon (with a particular interest in such figures as Stockhausen and Schoenberg). While a student at the New England Conservatory of Music in the mid-1970s, Crispell heard A Love Supreme and was soon pointed toward Karl and Ingrid Berger’s Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, NY. Something clicked; she’s been living in Woodstock since 1977.
This concert from 1983 is one of Crispell’s earliest official releases, and has been out of print (on LP) for years. Coming on the eve of her decade-long participation with the Anthony Braxton Quartet, one can hear many of the elements that made her such a perfect fit for that group: an ideal combination of technical brilliance, structural audacity, and an open, fearless approach to improvisation. While there are parallels with Cecil Taylor — a clear, stated influence of Crispell’s — her work here communicates differently: the pace and drive and clusters are there, but there is also more room for rumination and a clear beauty. It’s a stunning document of pianist just coming into her own.
If you are interested in more on Crispell, there is a fine recent interview from a few years ago with Jason Crane on his Jazz Session. One can also watch Crispell in a duo performance with Lotte Anker on Roulette TV, from 2007. And there is another great interview in the book Jazzwomen, most of which can be read online via Google Books.
Finally, Marilyn Crispell is giving a concert tomorrow night, 27 October, in Woodstock, and you can attend! It’s being webcast and tickets are available here. According to the site, “Your $9.95 ticket includes access to the live event and video-on-demand for 30 days after the event.” Enjoy!