In San Francisco, back in the mid 1970's, pretty much at the apex of the New York City Loft Scene (a great creative renaissance of improvising music whose effects still resonate a generation later), Mary Anne Driscoll (1950, San Mateo, CA) and Paul Murphy (1949, Worcester, MA) formed a duo unit and, later, a larger ensemble with DeweyJohnson (tpt), Karen Borca (bassoon), and Jimmy Lyons (as). Eventually, in the early 1980s, these configurations made a couple of recordings, released, in their time, on M.A.D.Murphy Records. In 2003, more material of the quintet came out on Cadence Jazz Records.
As a youth, Paul studied with GeneKrupa and Louis Bellson, and took classical studies at the Peabody Institute. By the mid ‘60s he had worked as part of bassist Billy Taylor's trio. He eventually teamed up with guitarist Dave Davenport playing free Jazz and, in 1970, he moved to San Francisco where he became active in the Bay Area club and loft scene, and, as I said, met up with Mary Anne.
Mary Anne's early studies were through her uncle, trumpeter Charley Driscoll. Studies in theory and composition complemented her piano and vocal work and she taught in the Bay Area. After teaming up with Paul and joining his Outward Band, she and Paul eventually moved to New York City where they continued to develop their association while she also freelanced with groups such as Ted Daniel's Big Band and Frank Wright.
The Murphy-Driscoll association eventually ended. Mary Anne moved to Maine in 1990, raised her children, beganto teach music, and formed a quintet centered on free improvisation and her compositions. Paul stayed in the NYC scene finishing up what would be a 12 year (1974-86) association with Jimmy Lyons. In 1986, Paul stepped away from the scene to do stage work in Las Vegas and, in 1988, moved back to theBay Area where he resurfaced occasionally, most notably in the company of Glenn Spearman (SoulNote and Eremite Records) and, more recently, in an on-going musical relationship with pianist Larry Willis (Mapleshade Records) and a developing and on-going association with pianist Joel Futterman and cellist Kash Killion (Cadence Jazz Records). In 1990, Paul moved back to the Washington, D.C., area (where he grew up) and has since rebuilt a career, much of it documented on various Mapleshade recordings.
This recording has been 2 years (well, actually, more like 32 years) in the making and originated when Mary Anne and I began work on issuing an historic 1982 recording of her and Paul's quintet work. During this period, I was working also with Paul on various other projects. At some point I suggested reuniting the Driscoll-Murphy duo and, after several interruptions and reschedulings, the results are now in your hands.
At Gilbert Hall, prior to the sound check, Mary Anne felt out the (Steinway Concert Grand) piano with a series of exercises drawn from various genres, occasionally making musical notations on blank sheet music. Paul pieced together the drums, tweaking and adjusting andmoving them around and into his comfort zone. At points, Mary Anne played the drums while Paul walked over and noodled at the piano. Around their instruments, the two built up an area quite separate from others in a manner that was both relaxed, familiar and exclusionary to outside of their space. At some point the engineer began to get integrated into the scene. A successful sound balance was achieved right off and then Mary Anne and Paul reconnoitered, negotiated and strategized in various corners of the playing area. A bit before noon Paul opened with the cadence to Point of Reference and music filled the house. It's interesting to hear how their music has, for the most part, gotten more direct and declarative while on a piece like High Street there are definitive references to their work of 20-something years earlier. And while no one would mistake this as Cecil Taylor, there is still a good bit of Tayloresque impressionism in Mary Anne's opening moments. It's a lovely journey, wonderfully resolved.
At this point Mary Anne called for The Footbridge and let out a squeak of excitement and got very animated, laying out Paul's and her strategy and, unable to contain herself, spoke outwardly about change, time, and the piano: whatever energy and excitement that had been restrained now transcended its bonds and electrified the hall. Mary Anne was clearly energized, working the piano, cueing Paul, and, in general, seeming to be having more than a good time. I was also beginning to relax and have a good time. What energized during the session was a trust and confidence in a reunion that reflected a common past and experience. It's been 13 years since they last played together, but it's obvious, particularly on a piece like Off the Top, that while much has changed, a common musical foundation is strong, rather easily referenced and still exciting.
Musically much of the excitement comes from the space that each artist gives the other combined with the attention to detail. Listen to how on Inside Out, for example, it's very much like listening to two solos,separate but listening and quite in sync with one another.
Mary Anne got more and more animated throughout the afternoon, occasionally lifting off the piano stool in impassioned energy and Paul's prodigious drumming grew more precise and powerful. And there grew an inspired feeling that somethinggood and right was happening. It's my hope that this mood, this inspiration, these aural sculpts and reliefs will translate and convey their joy to you, the listener.
Robert D. Rusch - June 15, 2004
Mary Anne Driscoll can also be heard on Cadence Jazz Records 1167.
Paul Murphy can also be heard on Cadence Jazz Records 1147, 1160, 1167.