for more reviews, please visit Connie Crothers' webiste: www.conniecrothers.net

CONVERSATIONS
(NA1048)

Connie Crothers, piano
Bill Payne, clarinet

Connie Crothers and Bill Payne's CD "Conversations" has been voted one of the Top 10 Jazz CD's released in 2008 by Bill Shoemaker (Down Beat) and Art Lange (Point of Departure) in the recent Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll for 2008!

"Rather than a high-energy blowout, these collaborations leave space, are generally thoughtful and feature close communication between the two musicians, whether they are echoing each other’’s thoughts or offering a pair of contrasting voices. Sounding very much like 'conversations,' the improvisations give Crothers and Payne opportunities to create new melodies and thoughts on the spot, and it often makes for an intriguing listen. It is obvious that they have played together many times before and have a familiarity with each other’’s playing even as they continually surprise each other."

-Scott Yanow, L.A. Jazz Scene

There’s not a wasted note on these tightly constructed, pithy duets between pianist Connie Crothers and clarinetist Bill Payne. Each of the fourteen improvisations sprouts from an initial phrase played by each partner and grows by means of elaborations, variations, and recapitulations of the seed planted by the first notes. Throughout each improvisation, Crothers and Payne remain absolute equals, synchronizing their lines of development without there ever appearing to be a leader and a follower. But they are clearly listening to one another in these intimate dialogues. Each will pick up a hint from the other –mimic a contour, shadow a phrase – but use it only long enough to weave it into what he or she is doing. It’s a kind of a hall of fun house mirrors effect, where images are warped and reflected back and forth until they are utterly transformed. Tempos remain at slow and medium, but there’s lots of var iety in other aspects of their collaboration. “Conversation #2” is full of short gestures, Crothers making brief sweeping arcs as if she were juggling scarves, while Payne dips and arcs like a dragon fly. “Conversation #4” is a braid, a macramé construction of lines and knots of chords that form beautiful patterns. On “The Desert and the City,” Payne’s clarinet moves like a leaf buffeted by the wind, tracing long peregrinations, then wafting upward in little curlicues, or using multiphonics to jump in place. Crothers under girds and enfolds Payne with a kaleidoscopic progression of chords and note clusters. The precision with which they fit together is uncanny at time. Like all students of Lennie Tristano, Crothers is often branded as cool, but this is very passionate music, a product of intense concentration and discipline as well as emotional openness and depth.

Ed Hazell, www.pointofdeparture.org, Issue 18, August 2008

MUSIC IS A PLACE
(NA1043)

Connie Crothers, piano
Richard Tabnik, alto sax
Ratzo Harris, bass
Roger Mancuso,drums


For anyone with a well-developed relationship with modern jazz there is likely to be a split between its mythic and quotidian dimensions, between the music as it might have first been perceived and the way it is heard after years of listening. That modern jazz that first s trikes the imagination is both random and organized, chaotic but unified. Coded, yes, but it does not surrender the code easily. It is the entrance to another world. (It might be the music we imagine Jackson Pollock hearing in New York bars 60 years ago, but that wasn’t modern jazz at all: it was the contrapuntal traditional jazz of the imagination).

It is a modern jazz that I long for, that I know I’ve heard, but it’s dimmed by too much knowledge of too many details, just as the current “mainstream” modern is murdered by its text book solutions, its pained historicism, or else its ambitions to be “concert music,” another level of commodity. By contrast, that mythical modern jazz would appear to the ear as continuously developing harmony rather than the reiteration of a popular song’s pattern. That modern jazz I want, which is almost entirely telepathic, still has codes beyond my reach, while it attains a kind of perfect abstraction and collectivism, voices independently creating lines that somehow entwine and comment on one another. One imagines the underlying pattern disappearing afterward, indivisible from the creation of the piece.

Now that’s a music I hardly ever hope to hear because it repeats not a music but an innocence of ear that should be beyond me. But I hear it in the music of the Connie Crothers Quartet which manages to balance traditional patterns and free improvisation in a way that is mysterious, magical and brilliant, in a way that clearly advances the Tristano/ Konitz/ Marsh school of linear abstraction without in anyway repeating it. Crothers is a stunning pianist, and the sudden traceries of “New York in the Blue Hour” would alone suffice to make her one of the most interesting (and somehow natural) pianists in jazz, her chordings a loose physical movement in which the fingers are part of a continuum rather than mere independent mechanism. There is a shared state of musical mind that unites Crothers with altoist Richard Tabnik (stunningly speech-like, like Coleman or Konitz, but it’s his own speech; his upper-register chatter demands a hearing), bassist Ratzo Harris (a darting intelligence) and drummer Roger Mancuso (creating a streetscape of multiple exchanges), an intimacy so highly developed that you can turn to the back tray liner and expect a single composer only to find four, and vice versa.

Music is a Place is work of continuous invention and dialogue, of shifting voices and echoes of blues and bop and sudden solo extrapolations; it’s music that always feels as organized as bop, but it also sounds as loose as the best free jazz. There’s a dream-like quality to this music where anxious combinations of sound suddenly find the right concordances and take wing or repose. It’s absolutely masterful group dialogue.

Stuart Broomer, Signal to Noise, Issue #48, Winter 2008, p. 75.
Selected by Stuart Broomer for inclusion in his list of the ten best recordings of 2007, www.jazzhouse.com


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.

By Tom Greenland, All About Jazz
All About Jazz-New York selected this CD for their Honorable Mention for the best recordings of 2007.


Although pianist and composer Connie Crothers studied with the influential pianist/composer/philosopher Lennie Tristano so many years ago, she continues to be associated with Tristano and his other students or collaborators. The thing is, Ms. Crothers has continued to evolve and has some dozen discs out as a leader. Each one a worthy gem to consider. She has worked with members of this great quartet for quite a long time, Tabnik for 25 years and Mancuso for 35 years. This particular quartet has worked together weekly for the past five years. You can hear the proof in the pudding as there is a special bond that links this group together. Each of the seven pieces was composed by members of the quartet and each is special in a different way. “Helen’s Tune” has an odd structure that keeps shifting in different sections as if there are a couple of subgroups at work. It is both playful and slightly bent at the same time. Tabnik reminds me of Lee Konitz at times and Jackie McLean at other times with his unpredictable solos. Connie’s has a certain elegance and sophistication that puts her in a class by itself, she sounds like no one else but herself. Another thing that makes this quartet so special is the way they all flow together, they have the dreamlike feel that reminds me of Miles’ rhythm team for the mid-sixties with Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams. Often Connie’s solos move in unlikely ways, starting in one direction and then adding layers of lines that she plucks from another realm, similar to the way Sun Ra often pulls rabbits our of hat or space-cap. It is rare at the store that Mike lets me leave on an entire 60+ minute jazz disc that we both find inventive and interesting throughout when we are working together, but this disc meets both of our high standards.

Bruce L. Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter, June 29th, 2007


CONNIE CROTHERS QUINTET - LIVE

(NA1041)

This is a great example of truly free music, not that kind of posing, temper tantrum stuff that is enslaved by its ignorance of melody or harmony. Connie Crothers has forged a truly individual path in music with next to no help from thye marketplace. From track one, “Bird’s Word,” you get the feeling that, even though this is pretty standard instrumentation, the approach to the music is very original. It would be a misleading oversimplification to say that it’s a combination of free energy music and bebop, but for a fast description that might give an idea. The melody to “Carol’s Dream” is as intricate (and in perfect unison between sax and piano) as any post Charlie Parker melody ever written; however the crescendo of energy in “Bird’s Word” or “Warne Marsh” seems closer to Cecil Taylor’s band with Jimmy Lyons and Andrew Cyrille than it does Lennie Tristano. (Crothers did study with Tristano and admits his influence, but the constant comparisons to him and only him are inaccurate and lazy.)

From piece to piece the music moves smoothly from accurate melodies to intense interaction then soft and mysterious textures that allow poet Mark Weber’s poetry to come through. Through many gestures that could be modal, harmonically static, bebop harmony, dense or open, vertical or horizontal, there is a lot more conversation going on than in many standard jazz quintets.

In “Bird’s Word,” part of Crothers’ solo is developed through two independent lines in each hand. “Carol’s Dream” presents a musical paradox: a ballad tempo and volume with a fast paced piano/sax unison. Moving from the melody into the solos the music flows in waves of changing dynamics, tempos and moods. Both Ratzo Harris (bass) and Roger Mancuso (drums) play the role of supporting rhythym section players well but go way behond that, turning in solos that have the dynamics, form and tonal ingenuity of little 21st century symphonies. This music defies soundbite explanations, is deeply developed and demands your worthy attention.

Review in January 2006
“All About Jazz--New York” by Francis Lo Kee


PRIMAL ELEGANCE

(NA 1038
)

Bud Tristano, guitar
Connie Crothers, piano

"The musical link between Connie Crothers and Lenny Tristano was forged in the 1970s when Crothers studied extensively under the maverick pianist, whose unorthodox approach to improvisation was one of the earliest deviations from the established norm of bebop. So it is only natural that she would record an album with Tristano's son Bud.

Bud Tristano has devoted much of his career to the rock emporium, but it is clearly evident that he has a natural gift for improvisation. He exhibits several styles of guitar playing on this very advanced duet session. Glimpses of the multiple-note spark of Sonny Sharrock emerge at one turn; the concepts of flamenco guitar majesty crop up on another; the bent-note configurations of the steel guitar are evident at times; the passion of Eastern European folk themes shines through; and even softer acoustic scenarios emerge at unexpected moments. Polytonality is ever present, as it was in his father's piano playing. Tristano's sound, although predominantly electrified, maintains clarity and crystalline resonance in contradiction to his rock roots. He becomes an expressive conductor of charged ions while using his articulate fingering to construct significant moments in time.

Crothers responds to these varied stimuli with deep, emotional abstractions, which take up residence on the brooding, dark side of the moon. Her exclamatory punctuation marks dot the rocky landscape. She delves into the recesses of a craggy terrain with explosively deep and ponderous retorts to the energized volts of current sparking from Tristano's guitar. Crothers' pensiveness is pervasive throughout the album. She casts long shadows with her probing, concentrated improvisational approach. The commingling of basic cries of life with tempered softness is befitting the recording's title Primal Elegance. Raw energy and compassion appear to coexist simultaneously and harmoniously even though the undercurrents of tension attempt to draw one down into the foreboding eddies of this whirlpool.

The contrasting tonality of these two musicians characterizes the performance. Tristano's playing concentrates on rapid-fire combustion using upper-register ignition, and Crothers' pronouncements linger at subterranean levels. The sound swells to a common ground of excitement where each artist finds order in the union. This duet is a highly stimulating experience where two opposing forces meet on a battlefield and resolve the conflict with their unifying communicative skills. Although heavy in heart, this match is an uplifting example of creative improvised art."

Frank Rubolino, One Final Note, Spring 2002


"Bud Tristano treats this encounter like one long, segmented guitar solo, definitely putting the primal in primal elegance."

"Crothers' gentle ostinatos, rippling arpeggios and odd harmonies find
different ways to shade the music almost every time."

Jazz Times, July 2002, Aaron Steinberg


"Their encounter on "Primal Elegance" produces music of a singular fascination. It is not jazz-rock in the common sense of the term. It escapes every category. Nevertheless, it all works to telepathic perfection."

Vittorio Lo Conte, All About Jazz/Italy, April 2002


After the first couple of runs from Bud's guitar (title track), you'll hear why the title is so apt! Crothers' keyboard explores the kind(s) of rhythm(s) you might have heard 'round earliest man's campfires. & Tristano's strings scream & soar as I imagine primal man did when gathered together. It doesn't stay that way through the whole album, though... lots of style(s) here, & this duo listen carefully to the directions they are moving in/toward. It is clear that they enjoy playing & exploring together, & their energy level for conveying this to the listener are at peak! Lots of improvisation, beautiful interplays & some different combinations I wouldn't mind jamming together on (sometime, maybe). Bud's playing frequently reminds me of a couple of guitarists I've played with, Mr. Painful and Peter Tomshany... full-blown, straight-ahead & (at times) screamin'! Connie's keyboards are (simply) beautiful... no pretentiousness, joy & sadness combined all in one or three chords. Very interesting... enough so that (for any listener who wants to hear improvised music with a different sound, quite unique) this gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating!

Rotcod Zzaj, Improvijazzation Nation, February 2002

Tristano Offspring Impresses! My postman brings me such good stuff. For instance, a CD arrived in my mail slot a couple of weeks ago and the return address was Clarion, Pa., which is home these days to Bud Tristano. The old-timers in the audience will certainly recognize the name of Bud's father. Lenny Tristano, was one of the most influential musicians in jazz, recording and teaching on piano from the ’40s through most of the ’60s. He died at age 59 in 1978. Son Bud plays guitar and you can hear his rock roots in a new album just released on New Artists Records. "Primal Elegance" pairs Tristano with the outstanding pianist Connie Crothers for a session of innovative sounds that tend to expand one's pleasure through multiple listening. This is truly modern material and it will sound odd and occasionally too heavy to some ears. But, if you give it a chance to work its magic, "Primal Elegance" should win its way into your heart.

Crothers says the music they create is "... coming from a rock lineage. But when we're both improvising the music is unique and intrinsic to itself, rather than to a preconceived style." Tristano, brought up to play the piano as had his father, gave it up by the time he reached 10. He was drawn to rock, feeling that the basic rock guitar/amp setup as a music delivery vehicle is one of the greatest innovations of the 20th century. Tristano says his influences include Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen. Not bad choices, right? Connie Crothers studied with Bud's father. He was so impressed that he presented her as a soloist in Carnegie Recital Hall in 1972. Connie Crothers and Bud Tristano make a dynamic duo that should cause some serious rumbles of joy and awe within the music world. Expect great things from this pairing.

Bob Powers, The World's Magazine

"I just have one word for your music. Excellent!!! It is just Art!!! There is a very special feeling in the interaction piano-guitar. It is incredible."

-Roberto Lupercio, Radio Universidad 104.1, Universidad Autonoma de Baja California


"A challenging, engaging work"

Guitar 9 Records, www.guitar9.com


"Very experimental and interesting music."

-Gustavo Bolasini, El Retorno del Gigante, Argentina, September 2002

"
It's a pure piece of art ... even if it's a little different in comparison with what is called a guitar oriented album! ... it’s a higher form of art ... an enchantment for mind, spirit and soul!!! Congratulations! I'll play it with pride ... "

- Ovidiu Dumitrescu, For the Love of Guitar, Romania, May 2003

Check out the Bud Tristano Website


MUSIC FROM EVERYDAY LIFE
(NA1025)
Connie Crothers Solo Piano

The piano style of Connie Crothers is replete with rich textural phrasing and an ability to dissect a composition to expose its barest roots. Crothers has been an adept pursuer of creativity since the 1960s when she studied under Lennie Tristano and thereafter began performing publicly in the New York area. Her playing is filled with depth and density, hinting at a somber, seemingly brooding persona, which in reality is counter indicative of her true character. This perception is particularly suggested on the solo album Music from Everyday Life. While the title might imply a lighthearted romp, it is anything but that. The songs unfold in heavy layers of sound that cascade from her piano with abundant resonance. Her program of original and standard material is an announced statement of personal, subjective choice, and it is played with intensity and an obvious outpouring of emotion.

While one would expect her own compositions to be freeform vehicles, I was surprised and impressed by the way Crothers approached the standards. Songs such as "Lover Man", "Star Eyes", and "How High the Moon" are played with such originality that the melody lines are fully submerged under her interpretive direction. She projects the essence of the songs without ever having to make an overt statement on the theme. Only on the opening segment of "Good Morning Heartache" does even the slightest hint of the theme surface. This subtlety indicates an ability to hear far beyond the superficial level of melody. Crothers makes heavy use of the lower end of the register in probing the labyrinth she designs inside the songs. Her right hand adds the sparkling relief, but the most meaningful statements are derived from the bottom end of the sound spectrum. The tunes are the essence of full-bodied articulation, and her exploratory endeavor results in substantive music with power framed in a veil of tenderness.

Frank Rubolino, onefinalnote.com, September 2001


ONTOLOGY

(NA 1035)
Connie Crothers Quartet

"The Connie Crothers Quartet or CCQt, is in brilliant, driving form as they generate explosive contemporary bop in "Ontology". Alto sax player Richard Tabnik creates free alto sax lines that project an eerie bi-tonal quality throughout his probing solos in pieces like "Ontology" and the uptempo "Bird's Word." Tabnik's sound is uniquely his own, exploring the fertile ground somewhere between Charlie Parker and early Ornette Coleman; just listen to the engaging double-tempo lines he creates in a swinging version of "My Shining hour" and the floating free blues lines in ballads like "Come Rain or Come Shine" and his memorable original "Fortuity." Crothers has rarely sounded so inspired, from her spacy lyricism in "Ontology" and "Come
Rain or Come Shine" to her percussive intensity in "Double Chi" and the lively rapport and free interplay with drummer Roger Mancuso following Tabnik's dramatic solo in "Bird's Word." "Ontology" sustains the most exhilirating and inventive hard bop I have heard in many years and I imagine that to catch this band on a good night must be awesome. You must check "Ontology" out!

David Lewis, Cadence, January 2001

On the quartet album Ontology, Crothers has an opportunity to stretch out in tandem with alto player Richard Tabnik and a complementary rhythm team of drummer Roger Mancuso and bassist Sean Smith. Mancuso has been associated with Crothers since the 1970s when they recorded on the Steeplechase label. The heavy, penetrating piano of Crothers is again present, but her introspective nature is tempered and redirected outwardly through her association with the other musicians. Tabnik contributes a lofty, spiraling alto sound that swirls around and inside the piano eddies of Crothers. The tunes have a semblance of structure but are really freelance expressions spun off the song format. Tabnik has the soul of a bop player trying to emerge and penetrate the wall of unconventionality that defines the program. He speaks in a liberated tongue, but his improvisations contain a modicum of form that suggests roots in more traditional modes of expression. His composition "Fortuity" has tangible handles and the changes of "Everything Happens to Me" to enforce even further this dual personality.

The band maintains the Crothers' stance on playing popular tunes. "My Shining Hour" and "Come Rain or Come Shine" are artfully cloaked in newness to make them unusual and challenging. Direction is given by Smith and Mancuso, who have a foothold in the time zone to counteract the liberated wanderings of Crothers. They become an interesting counterpoint when supporting her solos. Crothers' playing is far ranging and involved, while the bass and drums provide the berth for docking the ship should it ever come to port. The recording is one of contrasts pitting the searching soul of Crothers against the stability of her band. It results in a very enjoyable session where the two factions coexist and thrive. Mostly, it provides further substantiation of the inventive talent of Crothers, who can transform any tune into a personal statement of creative expression.

Frank Rubolino, onefinalnote.com, September 2001

SWISH
(NA1001)


Connie Crothers, piano
Max Roach, drums


While the duo exchange or the open-ended improvisation are not new performance propositions for Roach, his collaboration with Connie Crothers, a pianist who has expanded Tristano's labyrinthine complexes, is a refreshing surprise. Of all of Roach's recent duo activities, his encounter with Crothers is most analogous to his work with Anthony Braxton, as the music pivots more on concepts, moods, and procedures than on concrete thematic materials. While Crothers employs many of the percussive techniques associated with Cecil Taylor, a close comparison to the now-legendary, never-issued Taylor/Roach duo concert would be farfetched, as the core of Crothers' style is a linearity and a deliberate sense of motivic development derived from Tristano. Crothers' orientation lends an introspective element to much of the album, particularly the haunting Ballad No. 1. The strategies of several of the compositions are described by their titles, though it should be noted that Trading has nothing to do with the four- and eight-bar structures Roach mastered in the '40s, and that Let 'Em Roll showcases Roach's timbral control on tom-toms. Most important, the mark of a successful duet -- responsiveness -- is in evidence throughout the program.

Bill Shoemaker, Down Beat, September 1983


Swish reissues Crothers' 1982 duets with Max Roach, who is definitely not a student of the Tristano school of passive drumming. The relative freedom of the duet setting fits the tension and energy of Crothers' uninhibited playing much better. Roach is always fascinating in a duet, where he expands his role, occupying the open spaces in unexpected, always musical ways. Here, he focuses on different elements of the drum kit with each piece to give the largely improvised performances their distinctive character. The ways in which Roach reacts to and provokes Crothers are reminiscent of Roach's Historic Concerts (1979) duets with Cecil Taylor.

Jon Andrews, Down Beat, August 1994


No one works harder to keep alive and extend Tristano's legacy than pianist Connie Crothers, his friend and student. The music on Swish though is a far remove from bop. Moving into territory hinted at by Tristano 35 years before, Roach and Crothers engage in abstract, improvised dialogues as much about texture and gesture and specific harmonic and rhythmic schemes. Roach, of course, is an acknowledged master at this kind of interplay. But Roach, as the star, doesn't dominate, nor does Crothers assume the lead role you'd expect of a pianist. Rather, they carry on a lively conversation with Crothers' sweeping lines and rumbling bass patterns often subtly echoing Roach's figures. The titles describe the pieces: "Symbols" features Roach's cymbal play; "Let 'Em Roll" his tom-tom tattoos; "Tradin'" has Crothers and Roach playing alternating cadenzas. Only the title "Creepin' In" doesn't fit the music; this piece doesn't creep but dashes along at a quick clip. Demanding music, but worth the effort.

David Dupont, Cadence, October 1993

CONCERT AT COOPER UNION
(NA1002)

Connie Crothers, solo piano

Connie Crothers' 1984 solo concert is a totally different experience. From the opening piece, Carol's Dream, dedicated to Carol Tristano, the pianist's powerful two-handed style, percussive and explorative, is evident. In her treatment of standards, initial melodic lines are soon dispersed in heavy chordal patterning (All the Things You Are), in fragments of melody (You'd Be So Nice to Come Home to), or into a Cecil Taylor other-worldliness (What is this Thing Called Love). Yet with the Rodgers-Hart I Didn't Know what Time It Was, her sudden descent to a crystal-toned delicacy permits the lyrical aspects to blossom with awe-inspiring beauty. Her closing Trilogy is a study in mood shifts, ranging from deep foreboding to a spirited explosion of joy. There is a deliberate perversity, a controlled angularity, an intellectual intensity about everything she plays; if she swings, it's to her own inner sense of rhythm. All this can both challenge and fascinate the listener. It takes us a long way from a McShann or a Grappelli. But then jazz isn't a traveller with the past strapped firmly to its back. It seeks new vistas, new means of expressing its response to such changes. That's what makes it so interesting and rewarding.

-- John Sutherland, Coda Magazine, November 1, 1992


LOVE ENERGY
(NA1005)

Connie Crothers/Lenny Popkin Quartet

Crothers and Popkin quite frankly take Lennie Tristano as their starting point. Popkin's "L.T." makes no bones about it -- the tremendous strength of the piano in those typical tight turns, the misty tenor sound and -- perhaps most of all -- Carol Tristano's swishing brushes all tell you that this begins where "Marionette" finished 40 years ago, which is to say it takes a particular, analytical view of bebop and reworks that analysis, and its resonances, into the present. It comes off beautifully. Clearly they've heard other music -- this is by no means a time-capsule -- but they've incorporated what they've used to nurture the basic concept. Thus "How Deep is the Ocean" recalls at times something of the sense of Cecil Taylor's "Lazy Afternoon" without in any way borrowing directly, and Crothers on Tristano's own "It's You" echoes something of Paul Bley, while "Soul in Minor" represents a rather astonishing raid on the hard boppers. The flow of "Ontology" hangs so tightly together that you realise how well titled it is. Bassist Brown works hard in the engine room, and finally there's a wonderful drum solo on "It's You". It only remains to say, if you can find it, get it -- and do your ears a real favour.

Jack Cooke, Wired Magazine, August 1989. Chosen as #1 record of the year.

JAZZ SPRING
(NA1017)

Connie Crothers/Lenny Popkin Quartet

The influence of Lennie Tristano's teachings survives into the '90s with the Connie Crothers/Lenny Popkin Quartet a principal exponent. "Jazz Spring" melds contrasting approaches, with mixed results. Crothers can be a forceful, percussive pianist, prone to dark, minor chords delivered with a stabbing attack. Popkin favors the tenor saxophone's upper register, and plays smoothly in a style somewhat suggestive of Lee Konitz. As an accompanist, Crothers maintains tension, but sounds stern and hard-edged, almost at odds with the group's bright, upbeat approach. As a soloist, Crothers adopts a more expansive, introspective persona. On the CD's best tracks, "Jazz Spring" and "Beyond a Dream," she exhibits a lighter touch, unraveling elaborate melodic lines. in this mode, she interacts effectively with Popkin's tenor.

Crothers and Popkin's compositions are mostly vehicles for playing, with "Soul Sayer" a meandering variation on "Body and Soul." The sound mix accentuates the high end, giving short shrift to the rhythm section of Cameron Brown and Carol Tristano, and reinforcing Crothers' tendency to overwhelm her colleagues. It's good to hear Brown again on bass -- he's kept too low a profile since the breakup of the Don Pullen/George Adams Quartet, where he was so effective.

Jon Andrews, Down Beat, August 1994


IN MOTION
(NA1013)

Connie Crothers/Lenny Popkin Quartet

A memorable concert at "The Cave" (Belgium, Nov. '91) alternating standard forms and free forms -- the music joining wild flights of the tenor around the harmonies, sinuousity and diabolical precision, compact rhythms stretching tradition, and at the center the pianist lighting the powder keg with flurries of single notes, unexpected accents and expansive chord clusters. They appeared astonished at the enthusiasm of the public that was still in shock but enraptured. This is their latest album.

Gerard Rouy, Jazz Magazine (France) 1992. Selected as one of the top 50 CDs of the year.


JUST FOR THE JOY OF IT
(NA1026)

Bob Casanova, voice
Connie Crothers, piano


The performance is a pure musical expression. At first appearing stark with only voice and piano, the recording fills out with fullness and richness. Casanova has a unique voice for improvising on the themes. He has a certain innocence in his voice that is quite appealing. Casanova has chosen a wide array of standards onto which he adds his own personality. Initially, he alters the melody line ever so slightly and as he progresses he introduces totally unique phrases that fit neatly into the program. One selection, "When You're Smiling," seems out of place and does not seem to fit into the love song pattern of the album. This is the exception, though, for on most others his offbeat voice melds with the love songs for a moving presentation. He is particularly intriguing on "Wild is the Wind" with his very moving rendition. Crothers' piano accompaniment and soloing are a joy to behold. She doesn't allow herself to become constrained by the tunes' structures and is able to interject creative improvised lines into the song patterns. On "These Foolish Things" she is particularly poignant. By listening strictly to her playing, even when Casanova is singing, you can hear a continuation of her improvising approach. It is almost as though she were doing a solo piano album, yet the unstructured approach to the standards dovetails perfectly when Casanova reenters.

The two artists have created four short originals for the album. On "Lament" Casanova sings in a falsetto voice to Crothers' piano creations for a striking effect. They attempt it again on the three parts of "Spontaneous Suite" and achieve a whole new level of originality. It is a Jeanne Lee-type approach to singing, and it's an interesting diversion from the other tunes they perform.

Casanova and Crothers have created a moving album that weds an atypical vocal style with creative piano improvisations. It was a treat to hear.

Frank Rubolino, Cadence, February 1998

With flawless pitch and a range that extends well into the contralto register, vocalist Bob Casanova approaches his art with the improvisatory confidence of an experienced jazz saxophonist. Interestingly for one whose conception is decidedly non-traditional, he chooses to direct his attention towards a clutch of widely exercised standards, but so original is his that each performance emerges as a unique expression. Hardly an accompanist in the conventional sense, pianist Crothers, a long-serving disciple of Lennie Tristano, offers intermeshing backgrounds and solos just as striking as Casanova's melodic variations. In keeping with Tristano's working method, their repertoire includes such warhorses as "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To," "Lover Man," "When You're Smiling," "Out of Nowhere," and "I'll Remember April," but they also offer Dimitri Tiomkin's 1957 movie theme, "Wild is the Wind," and the jointly composed "Lament" and "Spontaneous Suite," a fascinating three-part reminder of Lennie's spur-of-the-moment experimentations with Lee Konitz.

Jack Sohmer, Jazz Times, March 2000

NEW YORK NIGHT
(NA1008)

Connie Crothers/Lenny Popkin Quartet

Bop in a light, relaxed groove, performed at a live date at the Blue Note in New York City. The program consists largely of easily swinging bop tunes, including some originals by Popkin and Crothers -- her "Prez Says" is particularly delightful. They play two knotty Lennie Tristano compositions, too: "Leave Me" and "Lennie-Bird." And there's one ballad cover, "You Go to my Head," which is a tour de force for Popkin's sensuous tenor. This club date was in December, but this quartet plays like spring is here for good.

John Baxter, Option, Jan./Feb. 1991


DUO DIMENSION

(NA1003)

Connie Crothers, piano
Richard Tabnik, alto saxophone

Piano and alto sax are paired in this program of nine original pieces plus the ballad oldie "Star Eyes." Connie Crothers plays with great strength and fire, yet seems to draw her lines with lightness and a fine edge. Her rhythmic sense never wavers, even in the most "outside," adventurous constructions she develops with Richard Tabnik.

Some of the airy dryness of the late altoist Paul Desmond colors his sound, but Tabnik follows a different path in terms of both harmonic conception and energy. He and Crothers obviously share close ties in this music which is both individualistic and a direct descendant of the late pianist/teacher Lennie tristano. Substantial and refreshing.

Lois Moody, Ottowa Citizen, 1988. Critic's choice for one of the top ten CDs of the year.