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Connie Crothers Quartet: Music Is A Place

Tom Greenland By

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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.

Track Listing: Helen's Tune; You're the One; Deep Friendship; Linearity; New York City in the Blue Hour; Ditmas Ave. Angels; Carol's Dream.

Personnel: Connie Crothers: piano; Richard Tabnik: alto saxophone; Roger Mancuso: drums; Ratzo Harris: bass.

Title: Music Is A Place | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: New Artists Records

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