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Marilyn Crispell Trio - Storyteller

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Artist: Marilyn Crispell Trio

Album: Storyteller

Label: ECM

Review date: Jun. 2, 2004

Sometimes you have to deal with what a record isn’t before you deal with what it is. Storyteller’s music is a long way from the rigorous and energetic work that pianist Marilyn Crispell has done with Anthony Braxton, Eddie Prevost, or the Parker-Guy-Lytton Trio. Which isn’t, by itself, a bad thing. Why make another record of the same old same old? I give Crispell credit for trying to broaden her reach, but I wish she hadn’t chosen to reach into the soporific zone that Storyteller inhabits.

Crispell’s often forceful touch is still precise and fleet, but it feels as though she’s playing her instrument with a bolt of fabric laid across the keyboard – there’s no energy in the notes. I’m not saying she has to hit the keys like Monk, but sounding like Bill Evans on the nod isn’t going to make me tune in either.

Bassist Mark Helias and drummer Paul Motian fare no better – their contributions also sound at once clear and distant. I suspect that Manfred Eicher’s production, which historically emphasizes gauzy impressionistic atmospheres, has a lot to do with the album’s desiccated aura. I’d like to hear how they’d sound with less compressed recording – or maybe some strong black coffee instead of herbal tea?

By Bill Meyer

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