Marilyn Crispell

After three acclaimed trio albums –“Nothing Ever Was, Anyway”, “Amaryllis”, “Storyteller” – a solo album by the innovative American pianist. “Vignettes” spotlights new developments in Marilyn Crispell’s work. An ‘aesthetics of space, beauty and tenderness’ prevails in her recent work, and the ratio of lyrical free ballads to eruptive playing has changed significantly. Fifteen pieces by Crispell – plus Arve Henriksen’s “Stilleweg” and “Cuida Tu Espíritu” by Jayna Nelson.

Featured Artists Recorded

April 2007, Auditorio RSI - Radio Svizzera, Lugano

Original Release Date


  • 1Vignette I
    (Marilyn Crispell)
  • 2Valse Triste
    (Marilyn Crispell)
  • 3Cuida Tu Espíritu
    (Jayna Nelson)
  • 4Gathering Light
    (Marilyn Crispell)
  • 5Vignette II
    (Marilyn Crispell)
  • 6Vignette III
    (Marilyn Crispell)
  • 7Vignette IV
    (Marilyn Crispell)
  • 8Vignette V
    (Marilyn Crispell)
  • 9Sweden
    (Marilyn Crispell)
  • 10Once
    (Marilyn Crispell)
  • 11Axis
    (Marilyn Crispell)
  • 12Vignette VI
    (Marilyn Crispell)
  • 13Vignette VII
    (Marilyn Crispell)
  • 14Ballade
    (Marilyn Crispell)
  • 15Time Past
    (Marilyn Crispell)
  • 16Stilleweg
    (Arve Henriksen)
  • 17Little Song For My Father
    (Marilyn Crispell)
International Piano, Selection
Consigliato da Diario
Marilyn Crispell’s piano sets are never quick studies, but this one calmly confronts us with the eternity of the cosmos. Her journey of lilting poetry offers a space odyssey, phasing like room-sized Hubble still shots on a private universe. Gamely trekking between the not-so-distant galaxies of jazz, classical and world, Crispell gives elegiac weight to piano pieces that gleam with motivic individuality.
Fred Bouchard, DownBeat
With Vignettes, her first solo release for ECM, Marilyn Crispell ventures further into the fleeting, fragmentary lyricism that has become her principal creative focus in recent years. The ‘delicacy’ and ‘inner space’ she cited as crucial elements on her previous trio recordings for the label are accentuated here… This is also a tensile, tough-minded music, its stark abstraction as challenging as it is alluring.
Graham Lock, International Piano
Instrumentiste exceptionnelle et improvisatrice hors pair, Marilyn Crispell est de ces rare musiciens qui ont réussi à abolir les frontières, les résistances et les méconnaissances entre les univers classiques-contemporains et les cultures du jazz. Elle rapproche les genres vers une fraternité des mondes musicaux. Beaucoup s’y essaient par le bas, peu s’engagent dans la création et bâtissent une œuvre.
… Voici, semble-t-il, venu le temps de la réflexion. Et nous écoutons ce disque qui comprend dix-sept plages, comme on tourne les pages d’un carnet de croquis. On y découvre ainsi sept Vignettes, pochades délicates et légères disposées dans quelque coin de feuilles qui contiennent des « paysages » et autres « dessins figuratifs » (mélodiques) aux constructions et rythmes à peine suggérés, mais où transperce parfois une pointe de nostalgie, le tout déposé (joué) avec retenue, précision et une qualité de toucher incomparable. Cela se feuillette avec grand bonheur pour l’esprit.
Jean Buzelin, Jazzman
Vignettes nennt sich ihr überragendes Soloalbum zu Recht, vereint es doch impressionistische Szenen, die dem Lyrischen näher sind als der harmonischen Prosa. Kurze helle Anrisse aus dem Inneren des Flügels und dunkel vibrierende Klänge stehen neben tanzenden Figuren, Reflexe der Moderne neben Melodien, die aus sich selbst zu fließen scheinen. Die Stimmung kommt zuerst, dann das Thema. Marilyn Crispell reflektiert die Bestandteile ihrer musikalischen Geschichte, stößt dann die Türen zu kontemplativen Räumen auf, wechselt von der Ekstase in die Nachdenklichkeit und Melancholie.
Konrad Heidkamp, Die Zeit
Cecil Taylor nannte sie einmal „die Speerspitze eines neuen Lyrizismus im Jazz“. Das trifft ziemlich präzise den Charakter dieser wundervollen Soloplatte, die sehr souverän zwischen Keith Jarrett, Anklängen an den hohen Norden, kleinen Attacken und lautstark sprechenden Pausen changiert. Immer wieder ist die Pianistin fixen Etikettierungen entgangen, ließ mal die Cluster hageln in hoch explosivem Spiel, um dann wieder die ruhige Seite in ihrer Musik herauszustellen in stiller Einkehr und milder Gefasstheit. … Weise und kontemplativ.
Ulrich Steinmetzger, Leipziger Volkszeitung
Die Pianistin Marilyn Crispell vereint scheinbare Gegensätze auf faszinierende Art und Weise. Sie begann in einer Folk-Band und wurde zur Protagonistin der freien Improvisation, dann machte sie die Bekanntschaft skandinavischer Musiker. Auf ihrem neuen Soloalbum verdichtet sie all dies in komponierten und frei improvisierten Stücken von berückender Stringenz. Das ist liedhaft, tänzerisch, meditativ, sinnlich oder auch abstrakt – nur niemals beliebig.
Berthold Klostermann, Fono Forum
After three exceptional trio albums – “Nothing ever was, anyway”, “Amaryllis”, and “Storyteller” –, a poetic, powerful, luminous solo album from pianist Marilyn Crispell. Increasingly Crispell is proving that tenderness and strength can be compatible characteristics, rather than opposites, in improvisation. Cecil Taylor long ago predicted that Marilyn would “spearhead a new kind of lyricism in jazz”, and she is defining it here, on the modestly- titled “Vignettes”.

“I wanted this to be a recording that was thoroughly authentic in feeling,” Crispell says. “Very pared down, with nothing superfluous in it, and at the same time music that was from the heart. And that’s easily said but not so easily done: even in improvisation a lot of activity in the music can simply happen out of fast, nervous energy. I wanted instead focussed energy, where every note and sound and silence has some purpose. Well, here’s an analogy: I was recently reading a book about Chinese five-element acupuncture theory, which suggested that in times of chaos and transition you shouldn’t try and force change, but rather get to a quiet place where you can allow transformation to manifest itself. A lot of my experience with ECM has been like that, allowing a musical direction to emerge rather than artificially forcing it.”

The directions that emerge on “Vignettes” bring Crispell to many different places and by several means. Free improvisation here has the rigour of composition, but pre-composed and partly-composed material also has its place. “Valse Triste” for instance is a piece written during a residency at the Centre Dürrenmatt in Neuchâtel. “Axis” and “Ballade” are themes that have long figured in Crispell’s concerts, integrated in improvisation. “Cuida Tu Espíritu” (Take Care of Your Spirit), is a piece written by flutist Jayna Nelson a friend and neighbour in Woodstock. Arve Henriksen’s composition “Stilleweg” is a piece that Marilyn first encountered in a group led by Danish saxophonist Lotte Anker. She has spoken often in interviews of her temperamental closeness to the Scandinavian musicians. One of her tunes here is titled, after the fact, “Sweden”. She spoke about her connections to North European music in the book “Horizons Touched” (Granta 2007).

“In 1992 I went to Scandinavia for the first time, to play in a Stockholm festival called ‘Solo 92’. Also there was the bass player Anders Jormin. All along, in the context of my solo music, I’d also been playing various ballads, though the primary focus of my music was energy and intensity. When I heard Anders, his playing touched a chord in me that resonated strongly. It would be two years before I’d have the chance to work with him, but in that moment, the seed of change was sown. Thanks to my friend Lennart Nilsson in Sweden, I was able to hear many recordings of Scandinavian folk and jazz musicians (my favourite singer was Lena Willemark). I loved the way the Scandinavian jazz players used elements of their own folk music in their improvisations, and loved their aesthetic of space, beauty and tenderness. Somehow, this was the missing element in my own music, and by absorbing it, I felt that my music was becoming more whole – not changing so much as expanding, to include more of everything that I felt and wanted to express.”