Tyshawn Sorey – Drums & Percussion.
Marilyn Crispell – Piano.
“There is only one place, and that place is time.”
Tyshawn Sorey’s latest album is a masterwork of a journey – an oceanic
experience that begins its voyage with quiet, focused intent.
Recorded live at The Kitchen (NYC) in October 2018 it is – incredibly –
only the third duo performance between the drummer/percussionist and
pianist Marilyn Crispell. The respect between the two artists is musically
palpable and Sorey has spoken of the pianist’s “mindful decision making,
intense listening, and the profound clarity with which she creatively
The darkened hall, lit only by two dim lamps, became the space of “a
meeting of two spirits on a path of sound” (Crispell) – with nothing
predetermined or discussed in advance.
The opening of the journey begins with a single ‘Tok!’ of wood. A slow
build, examining the parameters of the sound-space; percussion constructing
a base kindling with precision and purpose – knowing its role in the coming
fire. Single notes of plucked piano innards move into a gentle, eking
radiance of keys and chimes. At six minutes – the first distant rumbles of
thunder, listening across the expansive surface plane, feeling a growing
depth; a dark storm approaching.
At fifteen minutes in, the free expulsion fully opens – the first intense
dance; waves of motion and emotion – ominous, descending bass stabs and low
thunderous rolls replete with metallic percussion. Before all becomes
still: drum whale-calls echo into the dark depths – open expanse –
compounded with a single echoing tom hit; drawing a two note piano
Corrugated, jarred note stabs – fed by Sorey’s cymbals – then roll deep
into the dark-hued tones of the lowest keys. Snare after snare into rolling
toms, Crispell crisply repetitious here, imperceptibly building drama,
texture and space; excavating into pitch-dark angular time. Monolithic
Not only an exploration of sound and silences, but more unexpectedly –
sound and space; dark, hanging-open, vertiginous space – like
being suspended from a single rope, miles off shore, over deep black water,
in darkest night; suspended and adorned.
Percussive chimes lead us back to the journey – to what sounds like timbers
being struck, constructing sound; as a sailor might – superstitiously –
touch his head to the wooden vessel, the music here embodies the
relationship between the actual materiality of its own creation, through
action in space. Crispell responds with pizzicato piano strings that
project the playing of a harp in a field of ripped corn. Then scratched
strings sound as Sorey’s bass drum tries to burrow in beneath the floor.
At the fifty minute mark huge tympani-like rolls boom before shifting into
a chain-rattled invitation where the piano graces back in; a melancholy
slow dance of slow-motion tears, of glockenspiel and falling chords – a
chiming dialogue in decaying time.
Suddenly, a spontaneously composed coda appears. Crispell, emanating beauty
outward before a tidal wall of drums seduces one into an expected end – but
the piano breaks free and shifts into a slanting, sideways barrel roll only
to become drawn back into a horizon point of conclusion through an
overwhelming tightening snare.
Thrillingly dynamic, the breathless finale shows just how much expanse and
dense narrative drive can be elicited from just drums and piano, when in
the right hands.
A complete experience.
At no point in its unbroken sixty-five minutes does The Adornment of Time
meander or fall into ruminative discursion, there is always a progression
in movement of improvised intent and structural logic – displayed through
the sheer depth of musical communication.
Quite a journey.