Marilyn Crispell

Marilyn Crispell (born March 30, 1947) is an American jazz pianist and composer.

Marilyn Crispell
Crispell in concert, April 29, 2008
Background information
Born (1947-03-30) March 30, 1947
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
GenresJazz, classical
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Years active1977–present
LabelsLeo, Black Saint, Music & Arts, ECM
Associated actsBarry Guy, Henry Grimes, Anders Jormin


Crispell was born in Philadelphia. She studied classical piano and composition at the New England Conservatory of Music.[1] She has been a resident of Woodstock, NY since 1977 when she came to study and teach at Karl Berger's Creative Music Studio.[2] She discovered jazz through the music of John Coltrane,[1] Cecil Taylor and other contemporary jazz players and composers as Paul Bley and Leo Smith.

For ten years she was a member of Anthony Braxton's Quartet[1] and the Reggie Workman Ensemble. She has been a member of the Barry Guy New Orchestra as well as a member of the Henry Grimes Trio, the Europea Quartet Noir (with Urs Leimgruber, Fritz Hauser and Joëlle Léandre), and Anders Jormin's Bortom Quintet.

In 1981 she performed at the Woodstock Jazz Festival, held in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Creative Music Studio.

In 2005 she performed and recorded with the NOW Orchestra in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and in 2006 she was co-director of the Vancouver Creative Music Institute and a faculty member at the Banff Centre International Workshop in Jazz.

Crispell has performed and recorded as a soloist and leader of her own groups. She has also performed and recorded music by contemporary composers John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, Robert Cogan, Pozzi Escot, Manfred Niehaus and Anthony Davis (including his opera X with the New York City Opera).

In addition to playing, she has taught improvisation workshops and given lecture/demonstrations at universities and art centers in the U.S., Europe, Canada and New Zealand, and has collaborated with videographers, filmmakers, dancers and poets. She received a 2005 Guggenheim Fellowship.[3]


As leader/co-leader

Year recorded Title Label Notes
1982 Live in Berlin Black Saint Quartet, with Billy Bang (violin), Peter Kowald (bass), John Betsch (drums)
1983? Spirit Music Cadence With Billy Bang (violin), Wes Brown (guitar), John Betsch (drums); in concert
1983 Rhythms Hung in Undrawn Sky Leo Solo piano
1983? Piano Solo – A Concert in Berlin – Summer 83 FMP
1985 And Your Ivory Voice Sings Leo Duo, with Doug James (percussion)
1986? Quartet Improvisations, Paris 1986 Leo
1987 Gaia Leo Trio, with Reggie Workman (bass, drums, percussion), Doug James (drums, percussion)
1987 Labyrinths Victo Solo piano
1987 For Coltrane Leo Solo piano; in concert
1989 Duets Vancouver 1989 Music & Arts Duo, with Anthony Braxton (alto sax, flute); in concert
1989 Live in Zurich Leo Trio, with Reggie Workman (bass), Paul Motian (drums); in concert
1989 Live in San Francisco Music & Arts Solo piano; in concert
1989 The Kitchen Concert Leo Trio, with Mark Dresser (bass), Gerry Hemingway (drums)
1989 Duo Knitting Factory Duo, with Gerry Hemingway (drums)
1990 Overlapping Hands FMP Duo, with Irene Schweizer (piano)
1990 Circles Victo Quintet, with Oliver Lake (soprano sax, alto sax), Peter Buettner (tenor sax), Reggie Workman (bass), Gerry Hemingway (drums); in concert
1992? Piano Duets (for tuned and detuned pianos) Leo with Georg Graewe
1992 Inference Music & Arts Duo, with Tim Berne (alto sax); in concert
1992 Hyperion Music & Arts Trio, with Peter Brötzmann (saxophones, clarinets, tarogato), Hamid Drake (drums); in concert
1992? Highlights from the Summer of 1992 American Tour Music & Arts
1993 Cascades Music & Arts Trio, with Barry Guy (bass), Gerry Hemingway (drums, vibraphone, gamelan); in concert
1993? Santuerio Leo
1994 Spring Tour Alice with Anders Jormin (bass), Raymond Strid (drums)
1994 Destiny Okka Disk Trio, with Fred Anderson (tenor sax), Hamid Drake (percussion); in concert
1994? Stellar Pulsations / Three Composers Leo
1994 Band on the Wall Matchless Duo, with Eddie Prévost (drums); in concert
1994–95 MGM Trio Ramboy Trio, with Michael Moore (clarinet, alto sax), Gerry Hemingway (drums)
1995? Live at Mills College 1995 Music & Arts
1995 Dark Night, and Luminous Edicions Nova Era Duo with Agusti Fernandez (piano); in concert
1996? The Woodstock Concert Music & Arts
1996? Contrast: Live at Yoshi's Music & Arts
1996 Connecting Spirits Music & Arts Duo, with Joseph Jarman (alto sax, flute); in concert
1996 Nothing Ever Was, Anyway: Music of Annette Peacock ECM Most tracks trio, with Gary Peacock (bass), Paul Motian (drums); one track quartet, with Annette Peacock (vocals) added
1999 Red Black Saint Duo, with Stefano Maltese (reeds)
1999 Blue Black Saint Most tracks duo, with Stefano Maltese (reeds); some tracks trio, with Gioconda Cilio (vocals) added
2000 Amaryllis ECM Trio, with Gary Peacock (bass), Paul Motian (drums)
2001? Complicite Victo
2003 Storyteller ECM Trio, with Mark Helias (bass), Paul Motian (drums)
2004–07 Collaborations Live at Nya Perspektiv Festivals 2004 and 2007 Leo
2007 Vignettes ECM Solo piano
2009? Sibanye (We Are One) Intakt Duo, with Louis Moholo-Moholo (drums, percussion)
2010? One Dark Night I Left My Silent House ECM with David Rothenberg
2011? Affinities Intakt Duo, with Gerry Hemingway (drums, percussion, vibraphone)
2012? Play Braxton Tzadik with Mark Dresser and Gerry Hemingway
2013? Azure ECM with Gary Peacock
2015? Table of Changes Intakt Duo, with Gerry Hemingway (drums)
2016? In Motion Intakt Trio, with Gary Peacock (bass), Richard Poole (drums)
2018 Dreamstruck Not Two Trio, with Joe Fonda (bass), Harvey Sorgen (drums)
2018? Dream Libretto Leo Most tracks duo, with Tanya Kalmanovitch (violin); some tracks trio, with Richard Teitelbaum (electronics) added

As side musician

with Roscoe Mitchell
  • Sketches From Bamboo (Moers, 1979)
with Wadada Leo Smith
with Anthony Braxton
with Reggie Workman
  • Synthesis (Leo, 1986)
  • Images (Musics & Arts, 1990)
  • Altered Spaces (Leo, 1993)
with Larry Ochs
  • The Secret Magritte (Black Saint, 1995)
with Francois Houle
  • Any Terrain Tumultuous (Red Toucan, 1995)
with Michael Moore and Gerry Hemingway
  • MGM Trio (Ramboy, 1996)
with Bobby Zankel
  • Human Flowers (CIMP, 1996)
with Scott Fields
  • 48 Motives, January 11, 1996 (Cadence, 1996)
  • Five Frozen Eggs (Music & Arts, 1996)
  • Sonotropism (Music & Arts, 1997)
with Steve Lacy
  • Five Facings (FMP, 1996)
with Ivo Perelman
with Barry Guy London Jazz Composer's Orchestra
  • Three Pieces for Orchestra (Intakt, 1997)
  • Double Trouble Two (Intakt, 1998)
with Guy-Gustafsson-Strid Trio
  • The Fabled 1996 Radio Sweden Concert: gryffgryffgryffs (Music & Arts, 1997)
with Parker-Guy-Lytton Trio
  • Natives and Aliens (Leo, 1997)
  • After Appleby (Leo, 2000)
with Urs Liemgruber, Joelle Leandre and Fritz Hauser
  • Quartet Noir (Victo, 1999)
  • Quartet Noir Lugano (Victo, 2005)
with Joelle Leandre
  • Joelle Léandre Project (Leo Records, 2000)
  • Stone Quartet: Live at Vision Festival (Ayler, 2011)
with Lotte Anker and Marilyn Mazur
with Barry Guy and Paul Lytton
  • Odyssey (Intakt, 2001)
  • Ithaca (Intakt, 2004)
  • Phases of the Night (Intakt, 2008)
with Barry Guy New Orchestra
  • Inscape—Tableaux (Intakt, 2001)
with Anders Jormin
with NOW Orchestra
  • Pola (Victo, 2005)
with Michele Rabbia and Vincent Courtois
with Gunhild Seim & Time Jungle
  • Elephant Wings (Drollehala, 2012)
with Tisziji Munoz
  • Auspicious Healing (Anami Music, 2000)
  • Breaking the Wheel of Life and Death (Anami, 2000)
  • Heart to Heart (Anami, 2013)
  • Beautiful Empty Fullness (Anami, 2014)
  • The Paradox of Independence (Anami, 2014)
with Joe Lovano


  1. Greenland, Tom (October 13, 2006). "Marilyn Crispell". All About Jazz. Retrieved July 19, 2010.
  2. Lock, Graham (1994). Chasing the Vibration: Meetings with Creative Musicians. Exeter: Stride. pp. 105–111. ISBN 1-873012-81-0.
  3. "Marilyn Crispell: 2005 – US & Canada Competition Creative Arts – Music Composition". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Archived from the original on June 22, 2011. Retrieved July 19, 2010.

Additional sources

  • Zorn, John, ed. (2000). Arcana: Musicians on Music. New York: Granary Books/Hips Road. ISBN 1-887123-27-X.
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