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
A number of listeners were so captivated by pianist Virg (rhymes with urge) Dzurinko’s solo album, Fun City (New Artists Records, 1999), that they wrote to the label asking how they could acquire the sheet music. They wanted to dive into the voluptuous shadows of “Swimming in the Dark,” float in the tender luminosity of “Another City,” with its final poignant dissonance. They wanted to see how she so completely transforms “Darn That Dream” over and over, and what makes her block chords go in two directions at once in “Quitting Time.” They needed to get a look at the map for the prickly “Traffic and Weather Together.”
Imagine their surprise—were Dzurinko to send it to them—when they discover that, except for the title at the top, the sheet music comprises blank page after blank page. That’s because every track—9 standards and 12 originals—is entirely improvised from beginning to end.
What’s telling in the requests for the sheet music is how coherent each of these tracks is in establishing feeling and narrative. For all their illuminated divagations, they sound as if they could have been written out or at least sketched out in advance. They’re complete and beautiful. But until she sat down at the piano, Dzurinko had no more idea than the man in the moon what was going to happen.
But happen it did. 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