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Connie Crothers Quartet: Music is a Place

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They may have started as members of the Lennie Tristano school of jazz, but the members of this highly evolved and polished quartet, as much a collective as the band of pianist Crothers, has ventured far beyond the tenets of Tristano. They take liberties with time, tone, tempo, dynamics and attack that would horrify more orthodox Tristanoites. The lesson they do take to heart is the valuable one of perseverance, of the importance of playing their music as often as possible or, as Crothers says, “I put a ton of time behind everything I do. … I spend time with music. It’s a joy! Never work.”

The results of all that time are evident in the exquisite interplay of this quartet, where a solo is rarely just one musician out front, the others accompanying, but rather an intricate cat’s-cradle minuet of what they may call free improvisation but may better be described as fluidly flexible improvisation. The music here, from alto sax (Richard Tabnik) and piano-unison head lines to elastic tempos and drum (Roger Mancuso) and bass (Ratzo Harris) solos accompanied by upfront piano chords and clusters, is never bereft of strong narrative form. The form varies from piece to piece, but is always more elaborate than the standard jazz head-solos-head norm. And neither Tabnik nor Crothers, the main voices, structure solos or dialogues in the usual postbop harmonic-melodic language. They find alternatives that incorporate tradition and avant-garde, and a wide range of dynamics that make every track a sonic adventure.