Put a pin anywhere in the lengthy discography of pianist Marilyn Crispell and you’ll stumble on a new facet, an unforeseen window into her turbulent, ever-evolving improvisational discourse. This is because Crispell retains the ability to surprise herself—as must have been the case during her first-ever playing encounter with Louis Moholo-Moholo, the iconic drummer and South African expatriate (now repatriated). The resulting duo session, Sibanye (We Are One), makes for a vibrant contrast with two recent trio efforts involving Crispell and a far-flung roster of colleagues. Bassist Barry Guy, founder of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra, enlists Crispell and drummer Paul Lytton for Phases of the Night while Ottawa bassist John Geggie offers Geggie Project, his leader debut, with Crispell and drummer Nick Fraser. (…)
John Geggie, a frequent collaborator of pianist DD Jackson, also finds a satisfying rapport with Crispell on Geggie Project, splitting the program evenly between his original pieces and collective improvised tracks. The recorded sound is uncommonly fine, with Crispell’s bell-like single notes filling out the contours of the opening Credo. Thanks to her seasoned touch, Geggie’s compositions breathe exactly as they should, particularly the rubato ballad Across the Sky and the tempo-based, off-kilter Or Not, which recalls some of Crispell’s work with Paul Motian. Fraser steps up on the starkly contrapuntal View from the Bridge—essentially a drum feature—and pairs up with Crispell authoritatively on Weather Forecast, one of three duets (the others being Entre chien et loup and PH, for piano and bass). Here, as on Sibanye (We Are One) and Phases of the Night, Crispell acquits herself as one of our most adaptable and imaginative pianists, a team player par excellence.