Gary Peacock/Marilyn Crispell: Azure (ECM 2292)



Gary Peacock double bass
Marilyn Crispell piano
Recorded January and February 2011 at Nevessa Production, Saugerties, NY
Engineer: Chris Andersen
Produced by Gary Peacock and Marilyn Crispell

Bassist Gary Peacock and pianist Marilyn Crispell shared many fruitful years of collaboration in their trio with the late drummer Paul Motian. Yet those who had only intersected with these musicians on disc might never have been aware of a Peacock-Crispell duo project on the side. Azure solves the mystery of this collaboration in a crystal clear recording as far-reaching as it is cinched by mutual respect.

Peacock and Crispell

Their original set list is the very essence of unchained melodies, spooling back from the freely improvised title track in an alluring wave of creativity. This same tune comes as a breath of light after the game of shadows that precedes it. Though perhaps more in line with what one might expect from these legendary musicians, it’s all the more special for being the outlier of the program. It is indeed a portrait of open sky, but also a memory of storms. Looking back on its life, we encounter two further adlibs: the kindred “Blue” and the repartee of “Leapfrog,” each with a distinct inner swing and playfulness of spirit.

Beyond these stretch the open plains of Peacock’s compositions, each a journey in search of another. Spanning the gamut from robust exchanges (“Lullaby”) to the dance of marionette strings in the bassist’s arco draw (“Puppets”), his is a uniquely frayed brand of whimsy. And in a brief aside called “The Lea,” which is half bass solo and half duo, he speaks in picturesque tongues. Further solitudes await in the expository “Bass Solo” and “Piano Solo.” Where one puts a bluesier angle on the album’s development, the other knots itself until it cannot be pulled apart.

Crispell’s writing puts the crisp back into her surname and practically redefines the meaning of intimacy. The closely recorded “Patterns” opens with her running fingers before Peacock joins the chase, the two of them creating a tight circle of affirmation and magnifying a watchmaker’s craft so that every cog is audible. “Goodbye” emphasizes a contrast, but also reciprocation, of illustration and ornament in a duly bittersweet tune that is the album’s highlight. And the interlocking “Waltz After David M.,” like the whole, takes Crispell to new expanses.

The musicianship documented on Azure is of experienced and fearless order. The ship of these musicians even more so. It is unsinkable, and a ticket to ride should be required for even the most negligibly curious.

(To hear samples of Azure, click here.)

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