Connie Crothers, piano | Richard Tabnik, alto saxophone | Roger Mancuso, drums | Ratzo Harris, bass
Tracklist: 1. Helen’s Tune 2. You’re the One 3. Deep Friendship 4. Linearity 5. New York City in the Blue Hour 6. Ditmas Ave. Angels 7. Carol’s Dream
They may have started as members of the Lennie Tristano school of jazz
but the members of this highly evolved and polished quartet, as much a collective as the band of pianist Crothers, has ventured far beyond the tenets of Tristano. They take liberties with time, tone, tempo, dynamics and attack that would horrify more orthodox Tristanoites. The lesson they do take to heart is the valuable one of perseverance, of the importance of playing their music as often as possible, or, as Crothers says, “I put a ton of time behind everything I do . . . I spend time with music. It’s a joy! Never work.”
The results of all that time are evident in the exquisite interplay of this quartet, where a solo is rarely just one musician out front, the others accompanying, but rather an intricate cat’s-cradle minuet of what they may call free improvisation but may better be described as fluidly flexible improvisation. The music here, from alto sax (Richard Tabnik) and piano-unison head lines to elastic tempos and drum (Roger Mancuso) and bass (Ratzo Harris) solos accompanied by upfront piano chords and clusters, is never bereft of strong narrative form. The form varies from piece to piece, but is always more elaborate than the standard jazz head-solos-head norm. And neither Tabnik nor Crothers, the main voices, structure solos or dialogues in the usual postbop harmonic-medodic language. They find alternatives that incorporate tradition and avant-garde, and a wide range of dynamics that make every track a sonic adventure. — George Kanzler, Jazz Times, July/August 2007
June 29th, 2007 Connie Crothers Quartet
Music is a Place [New Artists 1043; USA, featuring Connie Crothers on piano, Richard Tabnik on alto sax, Ratzo Harris on bass and Roger Mancuso on drums. Although pianist and composer Connie Crothers studied with the influential pianist/composer/philosopher Lennie Tristano so many years ago, she continues to be associated with Tristano and his other students or collaborators. The thing is, Ms. Crothers has continued to evolve and has some dozen discs out as a leader. Each one a worthy gem to consider. She has worked with members of this great quartet for quite a long time, Tabnik for 25 years and Mancuso for 35 years. This particular quartet has worked together weekly for the past five years. You can hear the proof in the pudding as there is a special bond that links this group together. Each of the seven pieces was composed by members of the quartet and each is special in a different way.
“Helen’s Tune” has an odd structure that keeps shifting in different sections as if there are a couple of subgroups at work. It is both playful and slightly bent at the same time. Tabnik reminds me of Lee Konitz at times and Jackie McLean at other times with his unpredictable solos. Connie’s has a certain elegance and sophistication that puts her in a class by itself, she sounds like no one else but herself. Another thing that makes this quartet so special is the way they all flow together, they have the dreamlike feel that reminds me of Miles’ rhythm team for the mid-sixties with Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams. Often Connie’s solos move in unlikely ways, starting in one direction and then adding layers of lines that she plucks from another realm, similar to the way Sun Ra often pulls rabbits our of hat or space-cap. It is rare at the store that Mike lets me leave on an entire 60+ minute jazz disc that we both find inventive and interesting throughout when we are working together, but this disc meets both of our high standards. — Bruce L. Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter
CD version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)
MP3 version (85.06MB zip download)
With Music Is A Place pianist Connie Crothers has created an enduring work, a crystallization and clarification of her musical aesthetic. Featuring longtime colleagues Richard Tabnik (alto) and Roger Mancuso (drums) along with veteran bassist Ratzo Harris, the disc contains a set of originals that explore the interzone between pre- and free composition, a mix of straight-up swing rhythms, blues inflections, cool-school instrumental timbres and emotional reserve, along with a predilection for controlled chaos.
The accent here is on compatibility and democratic interplay. Crothers and Mancuso, in particular, are highly simpatico; their dialogues sound like the culmination of many previous conversations, unplanned yet well prepared for in the course of their ongoing relationship. Mancuso plays out of a swing bag but within these limitations his concept is extremely creative, mixing it up even as he implies a firm rhythmic foundation. Harris combines fluid legato articulations with a robust sound. Tabnik is a highly original altoist, his style ranging from calm geometric precision to violent meteorological storms; one of his best moments is an inspired solo during “Carol’s Dream” that stems from the jazz tree but grafts fresh fruit to the limb.
Tabnik and Crothers’ unison melodies are uncanny, tightly integrated yet creating the illusion of free improv; a few of the “tunes,” notably “You’re the One” and “Carol’s Dream,” sound as if they were created off-the-cuff. The comping by various group members is often so active that it blurs the roles of soloist and accompanist. Music Is A Place is a wonderfully elastic combination of groupthink and individuality, constraint and freedom, probability and possibility.