Connie Crothers: Live at the Outpost Performance Space (2005)
This is a great example of truly free music, not the kind of posing, temper-tantrum stuff that is often enslaved by its ignorance of melody or harmony. Connie Crothers has forged a truly individual path in music, with next to no help from the 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 this is a combination of free energy music and bebop, but that fast description goes give an idea what's happening here. 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 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 Manacuso (drums) play the role of supporting rhythm section players well, but they go way beyond that, turning in solos that have the dynamics, form and tonal ingenuity of little 21st Century symphonies. This deeply developed music defies soundbite explanations and demands your attention.
Track Listing: Bird's Word; Carol's Dream; Story; Laura; Warne Marsh; Linearity; Lennie's Request; Under It All; Ontology.
Personnel: Connie Crothers: piano; Richard Tabnik: alto saxophone; Roger Mancuso: drums; Ratzo Harris: bass; Mark Weber: poetry.