Tyshawn Sorey/Marilyn Crispell

The Adornment Of Time

There is a type of improvisation that seems almost mystical to witness. It’s full-blown, free-flowing and intensely narrative, the arc of which is only established as the players play and we listen along, trying to keep up. And it’s the essence of drummer Tyshawn Sorey and pianist Marilyn Crispell’s work together.

The Adornment Of Time—which follows an initial 2014 collaboration—is a single, unbroken live improvisation recorded at New York’s The Kitchen. On the album’s surface, it seems to follow a typical free-improv progression: a hushed, melodically sparse first act of Crispell’s lightly swung, delicate fingering moves into a cymbal-heavy middle section, cresting like waves smashing into a cliff-face, before ending on a melancholic dissolution into silence. Yet, there is a refreshing egalitarianism.

Both artists are chameleonic on their instruments; Sorey uses a variety of pitched bells and textural brushwork to evoke the soft melodies of the reverberating piano, while Crispell hammers out a hard-swinging rhythmic complexity in the middle section, densely packing in the notes and showing flashes of her earlier work as part of Anthony Braxton’s “classic” quartet.

While the more dynamic bursts can feel somewhat overwhelming in their quick-fire interplay, they provide a necessary counterpoint to the meditative opening and closing sections, with the latter being dominated by languid phrases. A work this instinctual and eminently present-tense can seem difficult to unpack from the perspective of a recording, yet within it lies the key to the jazz form: the synaptic rushes of musicians communicating purely in the moment.