Saturday, October 19, 2019

CD Review: Tyshawn Sorey and Marilyn Crispell - The Adornment of Time

Tyshawn Sorey and Marilyn Crispell
The Adornment of Time

This statement could probably have been in any of the last couple years, but 2019 has been an especially fruitful year for Pi Recordings. They released the bold, two-disc set from the revamped Art Ensemble of Chicago, a strong disc from Steve Lehman's trio, a bold direction from pianist David Virelles (though that might have come out at the tail end of 2018), a Matt Mitchell set that's equal parts challenging and enthralling. A new Miles Okazaki disc is sitting next to me, demanding to be opened too.

But first, we have The Adornment of Time, a meeting of two artists that had this writer turning into a fanboy and yelling, "Oh boy!" upon hearing about its release. It consists of a single, 64-minute performance that the drummer/percussionist and pianist created spontaneously at the Kitchen in October of last year. (It'll be one year ago exactly, two days after this post appears.) The performance space was completely dark, save for a couple dim lights on both of the musicians and imagining that visual aspect adds to the feeling created by the music.

Upon first listen, the album almost felt like it was divided evenly between the influences of both composers. The first half recalls Sorey's extended compositions with his piano trio, where space and silence serve as equal partners with sound and notes. Around the 30-minute mark, Crispell begins unleashing some aggressive lines from piano, shaping the direction. But a further listen indicated that it's not a simple delineation. Dynamics rise and fall with both players at the wheel, giving each other's ideas the chance to come across.

The Adornment of Time begins casually with an exploratory exposition marked by knocks (possibly from the piano frame), low toms, bells and a few stray piano notes. Sorey and Crispell take their time getting their bearings and it gives listeners the chance to get inside their minds while this happens. When the 21st minute is almost totally silent, save from some drum taps that can be heard only when the volume is cranked, it creates suspense instead of impatience for something more tangible to happen. The payoff comes eight minutes later when Sorey pounds a drum head and Crispell aggressively digs into some two-handed chords.

While that level doesn't last throughout the rest of the piece, there are turns and shifts in the structure as it moves. When Crispell begins scraping the strings of her instrument, it almost sounds like it could be Sorey playing some percussion, if he wasn't already using two hands on his kit. In the final minutes, a gale-force rumble starts building in the bottom range of the piano. Although Crispell moves into the upper range, this isn't a mere climax for the sake of ending the set on a wild note. It's a little deeper than that.

The disc ends before the audience applause happens. More than hearing that, it would have been interesting to see the expressions on the performer's faces as they finished. Thrilled smiles, surprise? We can only imagine, the next time we cue up the disc.

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