In the last few years the dearth of available recordings by pianist Marilyn Crispell has been rectified, mostly by the Leo and Music & Arts labels. Not only has the deluge of releases, recorded in a variety of settings, made Crispell’s work easier to find, it’s also showcased her versatility. Her status as one of jazz’s most important post-Cecil Taylor keyboardists has been secure for years, and few avant-gardists can match her impressive lyrical romanticism. On Cascades, a recording with bassist Barry Guy and drummer Gerry Hemingway, Crispell’s organic playing ranges from thunderous clusters of effective dissonance to introspective quietude. On a recent duet recording with alto saxophonist Tim Berne, she maneuvers his tart, R & B-flavored sound labyrinths with aplomb. A live date with local tenor legend Fred Anderson and drummer Hamid Drake, captured on the Okka Disk label, found her equally at home with the hornman’s brawny post-Sonny Rollins huzzah. Crispell’s romantic side, however, never flourishes more than when she performs solo; this marks her first such Chicago engagement in many years. Mixing strains of 20th-century classical music with the spirituality of her biggest influence, John Coltrane, her moving, often beautiful performances balance the full range of emotion, color, and density possible on her instrument. It’s hard not to leave a Crispell concert emotionally drained. Wednesday, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 276-3600.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Marilyn Crispell by Lauren Deutsch.