Monday, March 03, 2014

Raymond MacDonald/Marilyn Crispell review (From Sandy Brown Jazz)

Album Released: 24 February 2014 - Label: Babel

Raymond MacDonald & Marilyn Crispell

Parallel Moments

Steve Day reviews for us this album of duets from Raymond MacDonald (alto and soprano sax) and Marilyn Crispell (piano):
In the dark basement of an old church on the Lower Eastside in New York I first heard Marilyn Crispell play piano live. It was a trio with drummer, Gerry Hemingway and the bassist, Mark Dresser. All these years on, it is still one of those gigs that permeates my memory bank. No one jumped about or played the fool, rather the music they played came forth as if it were some Gloria ghost cut loose in the bowels of this old building. I had wanted to catch them because they were all members of Anthony Braxton’s celebrated 1980’s quartet. Marilyn Crispell came to the piano not simply (sic) as a gymnast of octaves, but
Raymond Macdonald Marilyn Crispell album
 as a fully contextual composer writing and reacting right there in the given moment. Now we have a duet of ‘parallel moments’.
And the other player? The alto saxophone can take my ears to the heart of the matter. In no particular order: Johnny Hodges, Joe Harriott, Art Pepper, Bird, Alan Barnes, Ornette Coleman, Bruce Turner, Eric Dolphy and Dudu Pukwana, the beginning of a list which retunes my hearing. Add Glasgow’s Raymond MacDonald to the roll-call. And I simply don’t care about sticking labels like be-bop, mainstream, or avant garde on musicians; if you are interested in how an alto saxophone can really engage with piano you will want this CD. Parallel Moments is superb.
This session dates back to the London Jazz Festival of 2010. The recording quality is ‘pin-drop’. There are ten distinctly different pieces in a seamless tapestry of dialogue, giving way to intense close duets breaking to solo conversation. We listen to these two listening, ears are the other instrument here. There’s an etiquette present, a mutual recognition audible within the playing. Thank the stars and the Babel Label for making these performances available now. From the opening track Longing, which is almost the ballad form crushed open to release a rapture rich with privacy, to the closing piece, Distant Voices, taking under two minutes to delineate circular breathing technique as an abstracted soundscape. The listener is drawn in to witness the MacDonald/Crispell duo in a parallel act at the pinnacle of the art of improvisation. I call it jazz or maybe I should just settle for listening.
Sometimes you feel you’ve already heard too much. This is the real thing, treat yourself to a little bit more.