The late pianist Connie Crothers, who lives on the same trunk of the jazz tree as pianist Lennie Tristano, with whom she studied, has been the center of gravity for a number of impressive musicians who have flourished under her watch. Among those Crothers colleagues are clarinetist Bill Payne and saxophonist Charley Krachy, who appear on three albums reviewed here. Each of the albums features what drummer Carol Tristano, Lennie’s daughter, thought might well be described as organic improvisation. You might also call it spontaneous improvisation (but not free). The first two recordings are The Stone Set/Conversations, a double album that pairs Payne with Crothers. Released in 2011, it is still as fresh now as then. The second is Conversations, a brand-new release that pairs Krachy with renowned blues/jazz/Americana guitarist Woody Mann, who himself studied with Tristano. The albums couldn’t be more different, but the two duos share one thing: they live as comfortably and joyously in musical improvisation as dolphins do in the sea. Continue reading
To oversimplify a bit, jazz players can be roughly divided into two galaxies: those who want to play tunes, and those who want to play free—and never the twain shall meet.
But pianist/composer Kazzrie Jaxen’s quartet—with Charley Krachy (sax), Don Messina (bass), and Bill Chattin (drums)—manages to do both at the same time on the album Callicoon Sessions. They play tunes—“My Foolish Heart,” “Melancholy Baby,” “All of Me,” etc.—but Jaxen and Krachy also go whither their imaginations take them, irrespective of the underlying chord structure.
What’s more, no matter how far out Jaxen or Krachy might get, they don’t sound out. There is always a narrative logic that keeps them in, even if they’ve left the harmonic neighborhood far behind. On top of that, the quartet swings like em-efs, thanks in large part to what poet Mark
Weber, who is sponsoring these concerts with his spouse, Janet Simon, calls an “unrelenting pulse” from Messina and Chattin. You can dance to this stuff—you want to dance to this stuff.
In short, the Kazzrie Jaxen quartet, whose address lies somewhere in the Lennie Tristano galaxy rather than either of the aforementioned clusters, plays some of the most imaginative and exhilarating jazz you are likely to hear anytime soon, producing beautiful musical statements out of what appears to be thorny musical contradictions. Continue reading
This is the first of four posts on two upcoming concerts—Interlace I and II—taking place at the Outpost and featuring the Kazzrie Jaxen Quartet (pianist Jaxen, saxophonist Charley Krachy, bassist Don Messina, and drummer Bill Chattin), pianist Virg Dzurinko, pianist Carol Liebowitz, clarinetist Bill Payne, and poet Mark Weber.
All of the musicians come out of the Lennie Tristano school, having studied with Tristano and/or his students, as did Weber. He’s the driving force behind these concerts. He’s been working for years to get all these folks together in Albuquerque, and he and his wife, Janet Simon, are sponsoring the events. Continue reading