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Larry Bluth, Don Messina, Bill Chattin: Five Concerts and a Landscape

Robert Spencer By

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The title to this one derives from the five concerts where these ten selections were recorded; the landscape, by the late Annette Bluth-Lukemire, to whom this disc is dedicated, is on the front cover. Most of the cuts are the sorts of standards favored by Tristano-school players like Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz; pianist Bluth, backed by the bass of Messina and the drums of Chattin, plays them in Konitzian manner – sweetly and brightly, but with daring and piquant harmonies that might slip right by you if you're not paying attention. This sort of playing transfixed performers like Anthony Braxton, who emulates it on his standards recordings and shows marks of it in all his work. Braxton once described the effect of listening to a new Warne Marsh record after a steady diet of Coltrane, Ayler and Coleman: he said that coming from that perspective, he couldn't hear it, but that Marsh was playing things that were just as "out" as these outcats.

That's what this disc is like. From one angle, it's a pleasant collection of songs like "My Melancholy Baby," "You Go to My Head," "Lover Come Back to Me," "You Stepped Out of a Dream," "Darn That Dream," and "I'll Remember April." As if the world needed more interpretations of those. But Bluth, Messina, and Chattin lay down grooves that reward those who take the time to listen attentively. On every track, Bluth takes the songs into uncharted waters, sounding harmonically a bit like Martial Solal, who has recorded some memorable standards with Konitz, over the rhythm section's cool and upbeat background all the while.

On the basis of Bluth's adventurous but never grating playing, this disc is worth hearing. The sound quality of these live club tracks leaves much to be desired, but the music is there for anyone who listens.


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