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July/August 2002

Bud Tristano/Connie Crothers
Primal Elegance
New Artists Records

Bud Tristano, actual progeny of pianist and music theorist Lenny Tristano, treats this encounter like one long, segmented guitar solo, definitely putting the primal in Primal Elegance. On this set of piano-guitar duets, Tristano employs a distorted, flimsy sound lifted wholesale from '80s hard rock and brings a technique to match, finding sonic models in flashy players like Eddie Van Halen or feedback manipulator Thurston Moore over any guitarist in the jazz/improvisation tradition. Tristano takes on more of a lead role on this recording, though he doesn't sustain interest. His oft-repeated descending lines, choppy way with the pick, upper-register wails and grace-note patterns turn up over and over-and they quickly pall. Subsequent efforts to diversify-a few unremarkable turns on the acoustic aside-come in the form of varied technique: hammer-on/pull-offs here, whammy-bar action there. It doesn't mask his lack of invention.

By contrast, the self-effacing Tristanoite Connie Crothers keeps to the background, choosing to react and support Bud Tristano rather than striking out on her own. The pianist is also the reason to listen to this CD. Though the guitarist returns to the well many times, Crothers' gentle ostinatos, rippling arpeggios, polite keyboard pounding and odd harmonies find different ways to shade the music almost every time. Still, by the end, Crothers runs out of ideas, too, and sounds bored with the encounter.

Originally published in July/August 2002
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