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By Francis Lo Kee

This is a great example of truly free music, not that kind of posing, temper tantrum stuff that is enslaved by its ignorance of melody or harmony. Connie Crothers has forged a truly individual path in music with next to no help from thye marketplace. From track one, “Bird’s Word,” you get the feeling that, even though this is pretty standard instrumentation, the approach to the music is very original. It would be a misleading oversimplification to say that it’s a combination of free energy music and bebop, but for a fast description that might give an idea. The melody to “Carol’s Dream” is as intricate (and in perfect unison between sax and piano) as any post Charlie Parker melody ever written; however the crescendo of energy in “Bird’s Word” or “Warne Marsh” seems closer to Cecil Taylor’s band with Jimmy Lyons and Andrew Cyrille than it does Lennie Tristano. (Crothers did study with Tristano and admits his influence, but the constant comparisons to him and only him are inaccurate and lazy.)

From piece to piece the music moves smoothly from accurate melodies to intense interaction then soft and mysterious textures that allow poet Mark Weber’s poetry to come through. Through many gestures that could be modal, harmonically static, bebop harmony, dense or open, vertical or horizontal, there is a lot more conversation going on than in many standard jazz quintets.

In “Bird’s Word,” part of Crothers’ solo is developed through two independent lines in each hand. “Carol’s Dream” presents a musical paradox: a ballad tempo and volume with a fast paced piano/sax unison. Moving from the melody into the solos the music flows in waves of changing dynamics, tempos and moods. Both Ratzo Harris (bass) and Roger Mancuso (drums) play the role of supporting rhythym section players well but go way behond that, turning in solos that have the dynamics, form and tonal ingenuity of little 21st century symphonies. This music defies soundbite explanations, is deeply developed and demands your worthy attention.

All About Jazz: New York

January 2006


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