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The Spiritual Beauty of Marilyn Crispell

Lloyd N. Peterson Jr. By

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There have been a number of pianists within the classical and jazz genres whose work have remained majestic and timeless, but never has there been a pianist quite like Marilyn Crispell. Never has a pianist been able to reach such extraordinary depths of spirituality and complexity. Nevertheless, levels of creativity rarely equate to levels of popularity and therefore, it's not surprising that visionary works remain largely misunderstood and unappreciated during their own time. Such is the case with Marilyn Crispell.

But what distinguishes Crispell so subtly and distinctly from other pianists is her innate ability to express and transcend so completely, the world we live in. And though "uncompromising" is a term often associated with musicians of jazz, with Crispell, it is a term defined much more clearly. In a society where money and egotism influence more and more creative decisions, Crispell creates from a humility that reaches far beyond the human essence of being.

Pablo Cassell said that, "The heart of a melody cannot be put down on paper" and unlike many pianists today, the brilliance of Crispell's work does not lie on the surface of the music but within the depths where only histories greatest artistic creative minds have journeyed.

Essentially, what many listeners perceive to be heartfelt playing is in reality, the ability to create the illusion of sensitivity through the manipulation of note dynamics. Not taking away from that quality but it should not be confused with the transcendent artist who explores within individual artistic and spiritual universes and is able to transcend their instrument, the notes on a page, melody, harmony and even sound itself. The few that have tried to place it into words have called it heaven, and even God. This is not for me to say.

Marilyn acquired a vast amount of her early musical and creative respect as a key piece of the Anthony Braxton Quartet with Gerry Hemmingway and Mark Dresser; arguably one of music's greatest illuminating achievements. On the contrary, I cannot express strongly nor sincerely enough, that it's in the live solo setting where Crispell's genius ascends beyond and into another realm, where life and art become nebulous, and it is here where she does her most brilliant and spiritual work.

In brief, I began writing in order to try and enhance awareness with regard to today's greatest creative artists and musicians. I grew frustrated with radio play and the focus on mid-tempo 3 to 5 minute tunes. I deeply wanted to find a way to share my enthusiasm for the intensity and creative energy I felt in performance from artists like Marilyn Crispell. To try and find a way to give this gift of music, power and beauty to others, to inspire others to listen, and to share as well.

Photo Credit

Claire Stefani

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