If the Crispell/Peacock/Motian record Nothing Ever Was, Anyway (ECM 1997) was the coming-out party for this highly adventurous interactive trio, Amaryllis should begin a series of anticipated recording sessions. Crispell, classically trained, came to jazz late in life. She held the piano chair in Anthony Braxton’s quartet through the 1980s and 90s then went on to make solid solo recordings inspired by John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor, Thelonious Monk, and Paul Bley. Crispell exhibits the beauty of Bill Evans in improvisational settings actualized in a post-Evans world.
This trio is assembled in classic Evans fashion with a democracy of participation and a highly interactive will. Of course drummer Paul Motian is an alumnus of Bill Evans’ trio with Scott LoFaro and has also recorded with Monk, Keith Jarrett, Charles Lloyd, and has led his own acclaimed bands. Gary Peacock is one-third of perhaps the finest standards trio today with Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette. Together Peacock and Motian backed Paul Bley on the 1999 ECM modern classic Not Two, Not One a structured interplay of chamber jazz improvisations.
Amaryllis while built on improvisation structures, actually reprises music from earlier times with Crispell’s “Rounds” (from the early 1980s), Peacock’s “Voices From The Past,” “December Greenwings,” “Requiem” (From the 1970s and 80s), and Motian’s 1972 “Conception Vessel.” While not conventional ‘standards,’ the music feeds a familiarity and communion between the players.
At the request of label chief Manfred Eicher, the trio recorded four free-improvisation pieces, the title track “Amaryllis,” “Voices,” “M.E.,” and “Avatar.” To the untrained ear (and I say also to the schooled ones) these slow, free pieces pass for thoroughly composed music. Credit the interplay and creativity of this extraordinary triad. Crispell’s balanced harmonies are a perfect partner to Motian’s subtle cymbal tints and Peacock’s ebullient time-keeping. The three create very personal, complex, and tender music.