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Connie Crothers Quartet: Ontology

Lennie Tristano eventually wound up having a lot of impact on jazz through Bill Evans, who picked up a lot from him and passed it on to other musicians. Still, the great Tristano, who created a system of modern jazz that was an alternative to bop, should’ve had more influence. For some reason, even early disciples like Billy Bauer reverted to anonymous styles when they were outside of his context. There are still a few musicians who carry on in his tradition, however, as this CD illustrates.

What’s nice about pianist Connie Crothers’ Ontology is that the members of the quartet on it aren’t slavish imitators of Tristano, Lee Konitz or Warne Marsh. Crothers has a sometimes dissonant and percussive, sometimes ethereal style of her own, and alto saxman Richard Tabnik’s playing is more vocal-inflected than Lee Konitz’s. Also, Tristano wanted bassists and drummers to do nothing but play time; bassist Sean Smith and drummer Roger Mancuso would’ve been too busy and unpredictable for him.

The solos here are unique and challenging. Tabnik produces a very thin, penetrating nasal tone, frequently uses the extreme upper register and plays angular lines. He articulates notes in different ways, sometimes almost spitting them out one at a time, sometimes blurring them together. Crothers has a very active left hand, which she sometimes brings to the fore, and the complex interplay of her left and right hands deserves close attention.

This group deserves attention for not only preserving but also extending Tristano’s tradition.

Originally Published