Although I was unfamiliar with the music of percussionist Michele Rabbia, I was drawn to Shifting Grace because I knew pianist Marilyn Crispell's exemplary body of work. Her presence on any project confers legitimacy and is a near-guarantee that the music will be worthwhile.
But Shifting Grace is far more than simply worthwhile. It's a well constructed program — sometimes contemplative, sometimes intense — that both requires and holds your full attention for its duration.
Rabbia, Crispell, and cellist Vincent Courtois carry on an intricate conversation made up of minute signals flashing at each other in rapid-fire sequence. The three voices carry equal weight, emerging from the shared space, making a statement, then moving back. It is music that seems to exist largely in the moment of its execution, yet, upon the album's completion, one has experienced a work of marvelous balance.
Picking a “favorite” piece from Shifting Grace is difficult; the music should probably be consumed whole. But I was particularly taken by the stately "Encounter V," an austere theme played by piano with a sweeping cello line supporting it.
Shifting Grace isn't easy music. It's beautiful but not pretty, kinetic but not propulsive. Careful listening will yield profound rewards.