actuellecd The New & Avant-garde Music Store

Heard In

Brian Olewnick, The Squid’s Ear, September 1, 2003

I was previously unfamiliar with Lerner’s work though from her discography I had the impression that she often works in more mainstream lines and has collaborated with several Cuban musicians. Noting that this disc was on the Ambiances Magnétiques label, however, I expected some more adventurous fare and that is indeed the case (though arguably a little conservative by the label’s standards). Unfortunately, Lerner employs a somewhat scattershot approach in these mostly brief pieces, venturing down this or that avant-garde by-way, remaining in one place seldom enough for the listener to derive an accurate or deep impression of “Lerner“, as opposed to just another exploratory pianist. She delves into the by now routine panoply of effects including string strumming, box pounding and piano preparing and, on Bordeaux, makes a regrettable decision to bring a Casio keyboard into play. She’s at her best on the lengthier numbers like Deluge, Wolfen or the impressively rhapsodic Black Tulips, where an absorbingly expansive character can be heard, somewhere to the right of Cecil Taylor and the left of Paul Bley. In fact, although it may be too easy a comparison, I couldn’t help but think of another Marilyn, Crispell, much of the time. Lerner tends toward a similar dark rumble and tumble that sometimes gives way to bombast but often enough draws in the reins and conjures up some nicely sensitive and thoughtful moments. Whereas in years past, one looked for musicians to shed the unwanted baggage of tradition, the current “academy” of the avant-garde, largely threadbare after the last several decades, often has one yearning to hear players simply play and not worry so much about being in the vanguard. Luminance gives me little doubt that Marilyn Lerner is a fine pianist capable of creating some strong music. If only she wouldn’t try so hard.