Saturday, June 30, 2007

Halfway Between Capetown and Woodstock

Marilyn Crispell & Louis Moholo-Moholo @ An Die Musik, Baltimore, MD
Saturday, June 30, 2007

Marilyn Crispell: piano
Louis Moholo-Moholo: drums

Marilyn Crispell and Luis Moholo-Moholo understand free improvisation. And they both understand what freedom means for one's soul. When these two master musicians play together they positively soar.

As a member of the legendary Soul Notes, drummer Moholo-Moholo lived - and played - in exile from his homeland of Capetown, South Africa from 1964 - 1993. During that span he toured with many great jazz players the world over.

While studying classical piano at the New England Conservatory, Marilyn Crispell discovered the spirituality of the music of John Coltrane and turned to improvisation to find her own voice. Her intense creativity took root as a member of the iconic Anthony Braxton Quartet and Crispell's music has since become widely influential - and she is deeply revered in the hallowed HurdAudio Hall of Heroes.

Their two sets at An Die Musik this evening was an expression of freedom as an exhilarating art and practice - not theory. These players have so much technique and expressive range that they could only begin to explore their potential interactions over the span of a single evening. Crispell would often take a percussive approach to the piano - sometimes working inside the instrument with open palms on the piano strings or slapped on the body of the instrument - as she would drum along with Moholo-Moholo. The flowing, ever-changing stream of rhythm would form into a sweeping wave that seemed to grow larger over time. And just as one expected this wave to crest, Crispell would start playing some achingly beautiful, lyrical melodic lines in parallel harmonies over shifting pedal points to reveal new musical vistas. It was a sound I had not heard from her before. Thankfully, this performance was being recorded for a future release so I'll get a chance to hear that sound again.

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