Marilyn Crispell and Joseph Jarman played music as a duo for the first time on January 12, 1996, at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Meeting House in Madison, Wisconsin. Rising behind them as they improvised was one of the architect's most celebrated gestures: a tumult of angles of glass and wood that come together to form a shape something like the prow of a ship cresting a wave. The First Unitarian Meeting House is known around the world as Wright's most thorough exploration of triangular forms, forms which represent for him a transcendence of right-angle intersections and horizontal-vertical dichotomies.
In Madison, though, the church is just as well known as a home for creative and exploratory music. The relevance of the latter fact here is obvious, but the building's spiritual and design aspirations are also important clues to the direction of the concert that became this recording, "Connecting Spirits."
Iit's no accident that by the time Crispell and Jarman performed as a duo, they had both already separately joined duets with Anthony Braxton and small groups with Fred Anderson. Like Coltrane, Jarman and Crispell are both known for the spiritual sides of their music, reflected not only in the title of this recording, but in such previous Crispell compositions as 1993's "Santuerio" and in Jarman's works as a Buddhist priest, poet and teacher of aikido: pursuits that have increasingly taken him away from musical performance. "Dear Lord" and the contemplative "Meditation on a Vow of Compassion" are only the most obvious manifestations of a spirituality in the music here. There is also the search for purity of expression in "Connectivity" and the gracious grandeur of Crispell's solo, "MCPS."