Connie Crothers | Bill Payne | The Stone Set plus Conversations | NA1044 & NA1048

Connie Crothers, piano; Bill Payne, clarinet

Tracklist: 1. The Desert & The City 2. Conversation #1 3. Conversation #2 4. Conversation #3 5. Conversation #4 6. Conversation #5 7. Conversation #6 8. Conversation #7 9. Conversation #8 10.Conversation #9 11. Conversation #10 12. Conversation #11 13. Conversation #12 14. To Be Continued…


Tracklist: 1. Stone Opener 2. Night on Avenue C 3. Bill’s Dream 4. The World is Completely Mad 5. Revolt of the Birds 6. Connie’s Dream 7. Downtown Sparkle 8. East Second St. Reverie 9. Momentum Times Two 10. Your Dream 11. Fun and Dreams 12. Jublilation

Rather than a high-energy blowout

these collaborations leave space, are generally thoughtful and feature close communication between the two musicians, whether they are echoing each other’’s thoughts or offering a pair of contrasting voices. Sounding very much like “”conversations,”” the improvisations give Crothers and Payne opportunities to create new melodies and thoughts on the spot, and it often makes for an intriguing listen. It is obvious that they have played together many times before and have a familiarity with each other’’s playing even as they continually surprise each other.” —Scott Yanow, L.A. Jazz Scene

There’s not a wasted note

on these tightly constructed, pithy duets between pianist Connie Crothers and clarinetist Bill Payne. Each of the fourteen improvisations sprouts from an initial phrase played by each partner and grows by means of elaborations, variations, and recapitulations of the seed planted by the first notes. Throughout each improvisation, Crothers and Payne remain absolute equals, synchronizing their lines of development without there ever appearing to be a leader and a follower. But they are clearly listening to one another in these intimate dialogues. Each will pick up a hint from the other –mimic a contour, shadow a phrase – but use it only long enough to weave it into what he or she is doing. It’s a kind of a hall of fun house mirrors effect, where images are warped and reflected back and forth until they are utterly transformed. Tempos remain at slow and medium, but there’s lots of var iety in other aspects of their collaboration.“Conversation #2” is full of short gestures, Crothers making brief sweeping arcs as if she were juggling scarves, while Payne dips and arcs like a dragon fly. “Conversation #4” is a braid, a macramé construction of lines and knots of chords that form beautiful patterns. On “The Desert and the City,” Payne’s clarinet moves like a leaf buffeted by the wind, tracing long peregrinations, then wafting upward in little curlicues, or using multiphonics to jump in place. Crothers under girds and enfolds Payne with a kaleidoscopic progression of chords and note clusters. The precision with which they fit together is uncanny at time. Like all students of Lennie Tristano, Crothers is often branded as cool, but this is very passionate music, a product of intense concentration and discipline as well as emotional openness and depth. –Ed Hazell,, Issue 18, August 2008

Connie Crothers | Bill Payne | Conversations | NA1044

I would like to thank

first of all, my wife Danise for having faith in me and always advising me to “Go for it.“ I would also like to thank Connie for her continued musical inspiration. The great saxophonist Richard Tabnik for his insight and conversation.The poet Mark Weber for his friendship and knowledge of music and literature. And I would like to send a special thanks to Haik Goomroyan for his generosity when I really need a private place to practice. BILL PAYNE

Much more on Bill Payne can be found here…

The clarinet in jazz seems to go in and out of fashion every couple of decades.

This may be in part because its subtle sounds don‘t necessarily fit with the high-volume, over-miked and often heavily electronic ensembles of our contemporary music culture; and partly also, I suspect, because in its understated way the clarinet conveys emotions with directness that challenges our desensitized comfort zones.

Never mind. The CD you‘re holding here is not a fashion statement but a sequence of free – improvisation musical dialogues inviting you to listen in.To do so, you may want to take a minute to minimize the ambient background noise of your own environment. These twelve “Conversations“ tracks, sandwiched between an opening “The Desert and the City“ and enigmatic ciosing “To Be Continued‘ will repay undistracted and active contemplation.

Bill Payne is a new voice to this listener, having worked for more than two decades in circus bands and other jobs outside music, while sustaining his soul and spirit with his musical passion even when that means playing only tor himself. He is currently based in Las Vegas. Living and playing outside the music industry with its land mines of clichés and commercial compromises, he‘s also been periodically part of the New York “loft“ scene – meaning performances staged mainly in artists‘ apartments because commercial venues aren‘t interested in taking a chance – along with his longtime musical associate Connie Crothers and other determined stalwarts.

Crothers has spoken and written of “moving beyond the separation of free improvisation from tunes‘ including a memorable occasion when she risked inserting a free improvisation number in her group‘s set at a tourist – packed Blue Note night club in New York, and got the biggest ovation of the evening. Crothers was a student of the legend- ary Lennie Trlstano, whose playing combined the detailed knowledge of melody and “changes“ with the rigorous avoidance of lapsing into well – worn bebop clichés.

bill payne | connie crothers | conversationsIn her quartet recordings for this label, Crothers has deepened and extended Lennie Tristano‘s legacy. More immediately relevant here, she has specialized in the duet format with its distinctive opportunities for unencumbered communication, recording for example with saxophonist Richard Tabnik, guitarist Bud Tristano, and drummers Roger Mancuso and – way back in 1982, the inaugural recording tor the New Artists label – the immortal Max Roach.

On the borderline of what‘s called “jazz“ and a broader avant – garde that defies boundaries and labels, Payne and Crothers share ideas, build and extend each other‘s phrases without getting in each other‘s way. Melody arises spontaneously rather than be pre – set structural design, as generaily required for larger ensembles. Happily tor this listener. this is acoustic music without electronic distortion and distraction.

Bill Payne‘s range and truly beautiful sound on the clarinet should hold your attention. There‘s also enough vanety in tempo and volume to sustain interest, but don‘t expect massive crescendos or crowdpleasing effects. lt‘s about playing and listening to and for each other. But when artists of this caliber converse together, there‘s always a third participant: you, the hearer. Open your ears, listen and join in. — David Finkel


metal & wood
hammer‘d & saw‘d
becomes a clarinet or a piano
eventually goes back to
sand & water
becomes trees
galactic, swirling,
becomes notes again
so far into the future
you need a wormhole
to go there, waiting
for a cab in Brooklyn
or a bus in Las Vegas
it’s all a dice roll
cosmic dust, time reversed,
the circus is in town, wet
a reed baby
we got Charlie Parker
bringing us home
bringing us to the place
where time goes in all directions

this record, cut near the mouth of
the East River, could be
ice skaters, gulls wheeling
sideways overhead, all the clouds
of the Atlantic, this record is
what an afternoon is like

Mark Weber | 29JUNE07


Playing Clarinet with Connie is like breathing

totally natural. Our concert at “The Stone” in New York City on December 14, 2008 was a true success artistically. We had the distinct pleasure to have the great artist Jeff Schlanger improvising with us via paint and brush while we were on stage performing. It was a night to remember. — Bill Payne, December 2008

Connie Crothers

is one of the most versatile pianist on a scene that is often mislabeled “free” jazz. Her pianism has been cultivated through long years of studying and deep listening, evident in each tone, chord and gesture. Overwhelming intensity, at whatever volume, is juxtaposed with transparent beauty in a style that is as unique as it is unpredictable.

Crothers has the perfect partner in clarinetist Bill Payne, this disc of dialogs belying a long musical relationship. Just listen to the moment in “Conversation #3” when Payne plays a two-note figure, immediately following which Crothers flourishes downward to land on Payne’s E-flat. In fact, counterpoint is the duo’s MO throughout. It opens “Conversation #4” and is even more rigorous in the tenth conversation. Crothers’ Tristano association is made plain in the latter, but as the tenth track heats up, bluesy inflections and clusters pervade, lending to a surprisingly trilled ending from Payne. By contrast there are the Messiaenic sonorities of “Conversation #12” and, with pPayne beginning in the lower registers and with such rhythmic freedom, it almost sounds like a movement left out of Quartet for the End of Time.

The duo’s rhythmic diversity is stunning. “Conversation #1” finds them establishing motoric rhythms in variously shifting meters seemingly without effort. If several of the improvised pieces do, in fact, invoke the high dynamics usually associated with Cecil Taylor, such concerns are momentary and they reflect only one facet of this duo’s remarkable ability to communicate quickly and efficiently on many levels. This is improvised music at it’s finest! By Marc Medwin – AllAboutJazz-New York (November 8, 2008)

Four tones

the last lengthened, a couplet, a perfectly symmetrical postulation with a pendant moment of repose, four mezzovoce but supremely confident utterances where wood, reed, breath and spirit merge in the expectant tick of time that births an expression. A statement of faith touches space, reverberates, fades, quietly demanding a response. Bill Payne’s opening clarinet invocation is just that, and as might be expected, Connie Crothers answers in kind. The close atmosphere of The Stone begins to vibrate, to resonate with possibility. It’s only the beginning.

Where history’s concerned though, it’s not the beginning at all, and the concert you’re hearing encapsulates years, journeys, shared experiences too long for mere verbiage. Bill sought Connie in the summer of 1981, coming off of his many musical adventures in plays, big bands, the circus. “I wanted to play the music that was in my heart,” he says now, “I’d played everything else.” Connie has a stellar performing career, assimilating the vocabularies of masters such as Lennie Tristano and Max Roach, who founded the New Artists label. She and Bill were instant comrades in art. Connie remembers excitedly, “He was one of the ones who got the essence right away. He’d come in, tear it up and float out the door in a state of ecstasy!” What began as a sporadic teacher and student relationship lasted into the 1990s, at which point, the practicalities of life interrupted the exchange. After many years and travels, Bill reunited with Connie, having promised himself that no matter what he played on the road, he would devote daily time to the music of his intuition. Conversa-tions, originally issued in 2007 and re-released on the second disc of this package, attests to the fruits of his experience and to the duo’s flourishing creativity.

In hindsight, Conversations is a precursor to the live events captured on The Stone Set. Two years and a universe ahead, these two demonstrate that their duo weaves in and out of history with the knowledge of scholars and the drama of storytellers. One note from Bill, multiphonically charged with New Thing innovation or vibrated, Johnny Dodds style, bespeaks many levels of experience. From the Webernian whispers of “Bill’s Dream”to the post-Messianic shrieks of “Revolt of the Birds,” jazz is the platform from which his music leaps into the beyond. Connie conjures light and shade, weaving them from vast webs of chord, cluster and silence. Overtones and dynamics are her staunchest allies, forming the lines, circles and spirals distilled in the crystalline patterns of “Connie’s Dream.” The worlds they create are their own, fluid yet solid, encompassing stone and light, shifting at every turn, only to return, as the rapid-fire repetitions and Protean dance rhythms of “Jubilation” sum up all that has transpired over an extraordinary evening. — Marc Medwin

Connie Crothers | Bill Payne | Conversations | NA1044

Connie Crothers

Hi Bill

listened to your CD. Very nice music I think. The interaction between the two of you is amazing. Piano and clarinet is never an easy duo but you did a fine work. Good idea to have all pieces around 2 minutes, it keeps the listening sharp. I had heard about Connie Crothers, never heard her music, thought she was into jazz, didn’t realise she plays improvised too. Nice surprise from 2 very capable musicians. All the best. — Fred Van Hove

Clarinetist Bill Payne

is the very definition of the itinerant musician—his extensive résumé lists stints with at several traveling circuses, Broadway and Vegas shows, tours with the Russ Carlyle Orchestra, cruise-ship bands, and the infrequent bad day gig. Pianist Crothers’s pedigree is a bit purer from a jazz perspective: once the protégé of Lennie Tristano, she remains one of the most exceptional representatives of his musical philosophy. Payne cites studies with Crothers as a turning point in his life. He’s now obviously her peer. This track presents the pair in intense one-on-one engagement. Payne’s non-tonal lines are classically tinged, augmented by a jazz musician’s concern with forward motion and free expression. Crothers has the touch of a first-rate Debussy interpreter, and here her lines as well possess an impressionistic strain. Each player gives as much as he/she takes. Their interplay is indeed conversational, albeit highly animated—even argumentative. Crothers’s status as one of the most accomplished in/out improvisers is only enhanced by this release. Payne’s rep, newly minted compared to hers, benefits even more. — Chris Kelsey |

Due musicisti dalle diverse origini – Connie Crothers al piano e Bill Payne al clarinetto

– intessono serrati dialoghi liberamente improvvisati, divertendosi a proporre una musica dalle coordinate piuttosto originali. Lei proviene dalla scuola di Lennie Tristano ed il suo quartetto insieme a Richard Tabnik, Roger Mancuso ed un contrabbassista che cambia a seconda delle occasioni è una delle realtà musicali contemporanee più interessanti, Bill Payne invece ha suonato un pò ovunque e di tutto, comprese orchestre per il circo.

Un dialogo libero dunque, per due strumenti che di solito non si incontrano facilmente (un altro esempio è quello dei fratelli Joachim e Rolf Kuhn) e che prendono strade convergenti improvvisando quello che passa l´intuizione del momento. La loro è una musica free, che rifiuta l´immediatezza espressiva: li si apprezza piuttosto per la bellezza delle linee melodiche, per la pulizia dle suono di Payne e per il delicato accompagnamen to della pianista americana, a scoprire attimi di dialogo totale, senza alzare troppo la voce. Alcuni brani sono di breve lunghezza, aderendo quasi alla poetica del minimalismo, altri piu lunghi, dalle atmosfere crepuscolari, notturne, a modo loro coinvolgenti per chi presta attenzione a questo genere di proposte. — Conversazioni di Cosimo Parisi

Double CD version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)

$ 24.00
Out of Stock

MP3 version of Conversations (62.40MB zip download)

$ 6.00

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