Connie Crothers/Lenny Popkin Quartet: Session

Equally provocative but more viscerally driven than one would normally expect from musicians dedicated to the preservation and continued exploration of the Lennie Tristano school of improvisation, the performances of pianist Connie Crothers and tenorman Lenny Popkin, with unobtrusive support from bassist Rich Califano and Carol Tristano, hold up very well in comparison with the work of their respective mentors. In Popkin’s case, the obvious role model is Warne Marsh, whose crystalline, uninflected tone and dry delivery obscured to many the deeply felt emotions and melodic creativity that coursed within his seemingly removed persona. While he retains an identical sound, rhythmic stance, and ideational flow as Marsh, Popkin makes it all seem very much his own.

By the same token, Crothers brings to the Tristano ethos a feeling for the blues and overtly expressed swing that her master never made quite clear, at least to those not within his cloistered circle. Of the eight tunes, only two, “I Remember You” and “Easy Living,” are acknowledged standards, but those closely familiar with Tristano’s harmonic methodology will no doubt delight in discovering for themselves the similarly well-known sources of the Crothers and Popkin originals.