Marilyn Crispell is a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music where she studied classical piano and composition, and has been a resident of Woodstock, New York since 1977 when she came to study and teach at the Creative Music Studio. She discovered jazz through the music of John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor and other contemporary jazz players and composers. For ten years she was a member of the Anthony Braxton Quartet and the Reggie Workman Ensemble and has been a member of the Barry Guy New Orchestra and guest with his London Jazz Composers Orchestra, as well as a member of the Henry Grimes Trio, Tiszigi Munoz Ensemble, and Quartet Noir (with Urs Leimgruber, Fritz Hauser and Joelle Leandre). She has toured and recorded with Anders Jormin's Bortom Quintet and with Gunhild Seim's Time Jungle. In 2018 she created a piece, ICE, for Seim's Kitchen Orchestra, performed in Stavanger, Norway. In 2005 she performed and recorded with the NOW Orchestra in Vancouver, 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. In 2014 she led a three-week music residency at the Atlantic Center For the Arts, New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and in 2016 led a one-week residency at the Conservatory Manuel de Falla in Buenos Aires. In 2019 she will be a guiding artist at the Jazzdanmark Summer Session in Denmark.

Currently she is touring and recording with two different trios: Joe Lovano's Trio Tapestry (with Carmen Castaldi) and the Dreamstruck Trio with Harvey Sorgen and Joe Fonda. She also plays with Scottish saxophonist Raymond MacDonald and the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra. She and MacDonald have toured and recorded, and have collaborated on art and music exhibitions with artists Jo Ganter and Melinda Stickney-Gibson, and musicians George Burt, Doug James and David Rothenberg at the Kleinert-James Art Center in Woodstock, NY (2017), and at the Jane Street Gallery in Saugerties, NY (2022). She has collaborated with Angelica Sanchez, Tanya Kalmanovitch, Tyshawn Sorey, David Rothenberg and others, and is currently playing in Michala Ostergaard's trio with Thommy Andersson in Scandinavia. Besides working as a soloist and leader of her own groups (including trios with Gary Peaccok or Mark Helias and Paul Motian), Crispell has performed and recorded extensively with well-known players on the American and international jazz scene. She's also performed and recorded music by contemporary composers Robert Cogan, Pozzi Escot, John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, Manfred Niehaus and Anthony Davis (including four performances of his opera "X" with the New York City Opera in 1986).

In addition to playing, she has taught improvisation workshops and given lecture/demonstrations at universities and art centers in the U.S., Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and has collaborated with videographers, filmmakers, dancers and poets.

Crispell has been the recipient of three New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship grants (1988-1989, 1994-1995 and 2006-2007), a Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust composition commission (1988-1989), and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2005-2006). In 2006 she performed her Guggenheim project, Cy Twombly Dreamhouse, with music, dance and slide projections at the Kleinert-James Art Center in Woodstock, NY. In 1996 she was given an Outstanding Alumni Award by the New England Conservatory, and in 2004, was cited as being one of their 100 most outstanding alumni of the past 100 years.

An instructional video/DVD, "A PIANIST'S GUIDE TO FREE IMPROVISATION: KEYS TO UNLOCKING YOUR CREATIVITY," is available from Homespun Tapes, Box 340, Woodstock, N.Y. 12498.
845.246.2550 or 800.33.TAPES

Drawing Sound- An exhibition of graphic scores at the Kleinert/James Gallery, Woodstock, NY, August 25-October 15, 2017.

A collaborative art/music project with Scottish printmaker Jo Ganter and Scottish saxophonist/artist Raymond MacDonald.

The online catalogue can be viewed at:


Marilyn Crispell has been a composer and performer of contemporary improvised music since 1978. For ten years, she was a member of the Anthony Braxton Quartet and the Reggie Workman Ensemble, and she has performed and recorded extensively as a soloist and with players on the American and international jazz scene, also working with dancers, poets, film-makers and visual artists, and teaching workshops in improvisation. She has been the recipient of three New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust composition commission.


Workshops in improvisation are designed to encourage personal creativity, heighten sound awareness and explore various elements and methods of improvisation. Ways of listening to and relating to each other, the relationship between sound and silence, between improvisation and composition (developing awareness of the logic of a good improvisation), historical perspectives on and examples of improvisation, and the relationship between music and other art forms and disciplines are explored, as well as whatever topics of interest may arise during the workshops. During the workshop/residency period, large group improvisations are structured and may be preformed at the end of the session.

People at any level and of any age are welcome to participate. General workshops (as opposed to workshop with professional musical ensembles) may include those at various levels of musical experience.

Marilyn Crispell's Archive is at Columbia University, NYC.


Jason Crane / The Jazz Session #52
The Jazz Session

Dave Douglas A Noise From the Deep / ANDFTD #57
Greenleaf Music Podcasts / Apple Podcasts

Pablo Held Investigates
Apple Podcasts

Adam Shatz / Myself With Others
Apple Podcasts

Monk Rowe / Jazz Backstories Podcasts
Hamiliton College / Filius Jazz Archives

Keith Davis / Notes on Jazz! #26
Apple Podcasts



Downloadable Press Photos:

Click here to Download the color portrait

Click here to Download the b&w portrait