Connie Crothers | Richard Tabnik | Roy Campbell | Roger Mancuso | Ken Filiano | Band Of Fire | NA 1050

Connie Crothers, piano | Richard Tabnik, alto saxophone | Roy Campbell, trumpet  | Roger Mancuso, drums | Ken Filiano, bass

Tracklist: 1. Ontology, by C. Crothers, C&C Jazz (ASCAP) [20:31] 2. Cosmic Fire [16:17] 3. Song for Henry and Margaret [18:04]

Tracks 2 and 3 are by C. Crothers, R. Tabnik, R. Campbell, R. Mancuso, K. Filiano. Except for the title /’Ontology,” all of this music was entirely improvised.The Stone, November 21,2010. (This month was curated by Henry and Margaret Crimes). Recorded by Ben Manley. Mixed and Mastered at Systems Two. Mix:JoeMarciano. Master: Max Ross. Photography: Michael Weintrob 2011. Graphics: Mindy Mitchell. ©0 2011 New Artists Records, NA1050CD

Fire creates its own sonic universe.

Its timbre comes from the burning, while the elemental transmutation breeds new forms of light and ash. It roars and whispers, constantly susurrating just below the energy that bespeaks its crackling multiplicity, its multileveled and precisely detailed identity. The title”Band of Fire” captures the essence of this music with uncanny perfection. Connie Crothers, Richard Tabnik, Roy Campbell, Ken Filianoand Roger Mancuso share a common tradition, but their musical vision refuses to be bound by it. The freedom they created at The Stone, on November21″, 2010, grounded in hard-won precision, tempered through improvisation, is released in bursts of flaming energy. Old forms burn as the quintet’s creative energy destroys and recreates them with new life.

Such is the case with “Ontology,” a Crothers original that was recorded in the late 1990s. Roger and Richard were featured on that New Artists album, but the similarities stop there. Roy wreaths the heavily accented melody in lush counterpoint, each note ebbing and flowing as if a part of the tune’s conception. When the solos begin, he takes the tune into the orbits implied by the head’s vast range, its leaps and curves providing the sparks that ultimately explode the form. The music has reached another plain. Roy and Richard play as one instrumental entity in the swinging “Cosmic Fire.” Impassioned dialogues now determine the proceedings. It’s a wonder to hear Roger and Connie glide in and out of tempo, spinning polyrhythmic webs over Ken’s rock-solid support. Roger has played with Connie since the middle 1960s, and their shared musical intuition pervades every moment, but new relationships were also born in the crucible of that November evening. Telepathically, spurred on by Ken as he propels rhythm to the next level, at around 4:30, Roger establishes a new tempo while Connie leads the way with luminous clusters and resonant low-register utterances, all as Roy’s rapid-fire rhythms float above. By the time Richard’s alto cascades in, a new form has risen from the old, and intuition has transcended history with pure celebration.

Perhaps the biggest surprise, after the pyrotechnics of the first two long-forms, is the sheer beauty of “Song for Henry and Margaret,”a loving tribute to Henry Grimes and Margaret Davis Grimes, who organized the concert during Henry’s 75* birthday month. This exquisite study in soft-sound contrast shows the band in another light, with sultry muted trumpet from Roy and velvety impressionism from Connie as Richard’s playing melts in and out of focus. Roger’s brushwork and Ken’s perfectly placed arco render the texture orchestral in tribute to two of the most wonderful people in the world. One more full-band statement brings this transcendent evening of music to a close. — Marc Medwin

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