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Review

Randall Mcilroy, Coda Magazine, no. 315, May 1, 2004

The first time this writer heard Marilyn Lerner he was galvanized by her hard attack; if memory serves, he expressed some concern for the piano at hand. Subsequent exposure to her playing in a variety of situations, from a cool quartet with guitarist Larry Roy to the fearless improvisations with bass clarmetist Lori Freedman in Queen Mab, revealed far more measure, forethought and deep listening than first suspected. Luminance finds her alone at the piano, but such a description misses the imtimacy; this is really the art of a musician seeking to collapse the distance between performer and instrument, to the point where both piano and pianist are transformed. Working closely with engineer Steve Lebrasseur, Lerner changes the sound of the instrument and the instrument itself by a variety of strategies, from arranging the microphones to redefine the sense of aural space, to playing on the strings and frame to disengaging the hammers from the strings to turn the piano into a multi-headed keyboard drum -John Cage’s prepared piano, now prepared for even more. Only one track, Codex Moment, uses the most immediate electronic transformation, with a Casio keyboard divining trombones, elephants and uncatalogued underwater events from her playing. Interesting though that is, she prefers more subtle changes - tight patterns bright and brittle as March morning ice, menacing percussion, an impression in Road Tango of Mal Waldron’s bass rigor at half the speed. Although the detailed technical notes do not address it, you sense Lerner never wants to lose the essential “pianoness” of her instrument.

… Lerner never wants to lose the essential “pianoness” of her instrument.