Sunday, October 07, 2007

Probing Resonances - Marilyn Crispell/Mark Helias/Andrew Cyrille Trio at the Rose

Marilyn Crispell/Mark Helias/Andrew Cyrille Trio
Paul Lytton/Nate Wooley Duo
@ Rose Recital Hall, 4th Floor of Fisher-Bennet Hall, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

Marilyn Crispell: piano
Mark Helias: bass
Andrew Cyrille: drums

Paul Lytton: drums
Nate Wooley: trumpet, electronics

This was exactly the Marilyn Crispell set I've been craving after all the years of obsessing over her recordings in trio formats such as this one. A well-rehearsed set featuring compositions from all three members of this super-trio (and other composers) complete with a performance of Crispell's signature interpretation of John Coltrane's "Dear Lord" and the phenomenal chemistry between long-time collaborators.

Andrew Cyrille is clearly one of the great drummers of all time. His recordings with Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane and Albert Ayler makes for some incredible recorded documentation. Hearing him play live only solidifies my already high esteem with his expansive dynamic range and creative acumen. At one point he put a real jolt into the start of his solo with a forceful thud on the tom as he stood up and explored a stand-up improvisation at the kit that allowed him to strike the drums at odd angles and draw out the percussive timbres of the seat he had just vacated.

Mark Helias was a particular joy with his rich, arco solos and lock-step creative dialogue with Crispell. The set concluded with a performance of his composition "Subway," a piece filled with twisting rhythmic lines and satisfyingly busy details as a tribute to the New York subway system.

The Rose Recital Hall is little more than a classroom with a Steinway and great acoustics. There is no raised stage and little separation between performers and audience. I was sitting directly behind Crispell - close enough to read the sheet music she was playing from. Close enough to study her technique at the keyboard. It's hard to believe that such proximity is possible to one's heroes performing with such a great trio. Crispell's percussive approach to the extreme registers of the piano was a perfect compliment to Cyrille's drumming - with clusters answering his elbow-on-toms sound. The textured improvisations leading into the composed materials, and the many liberties taken within those materials, is something I'll be absorbing for some time.

The opening set of Paul Lytton and Nate Wooley was a short, free improvised exploration of extended techniques for each instrument. This duo mined a tight, restrained dynamic range with nice sense of drawn out tension. Wooley's use of electronics focused on bringing out the micro-sounds of air passing through the trumpet that allowed for some exquisite mouthpiece-free playing. With the mouthpiece on he deftly navigated some multi-phonic textures, circular breathing, mutes and some low register sounds that were incredible. Lytton's drumming was a great match with his cluttered drum surfaces and taut, energetic restraint.

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