Connie Crothers, piano
Alexis Parsons, voice
3. Steady Girl
7. Beginning & End
8. The Space
9. Wild is the Wind (Dimitri Tiomkin & Ned Washington)
Recorded December 2009, New York NY
Hippin' was named as one of 2012's Notable Releases by W. Royal Stokes
Alexis Parsons won some polls last year because she is very good. Connie Crothers wins polls and has for years because she is central to the music. Put the two together and let them freely interact without any song material except, towards the end, "Wild is the Wind."
Now of course Connie playing free is nothing new — but again of course it is nearly always extraordinary. "Free" vocals are not something you hear a great deal of. We musn't forget Abbey Lincoln and Patty Waters, two of the first, and there have been others, some excellent, that have followed, but not really a huge number of them.
After Ms. Parsons did her album of songs a while back (which I covered) I knew she was strong. But for a free date? Here we have the two and their Hippin' (New Artists 1047) doing just that. It turns out Alexis is very poised, inventive and personally unique in this mode too.
If everything works well for a date like this, the people involved have to be very attuned to what they will do. That's most certainly so. Then what they do needs to have interest, trajectory, drama, and so forth. There never is any doubt with what Connie would do here, because she is a monster improviser/artist. And so that happens to be the case once again. And Alexis Parsons gives you the surprise of having very much her own way of getting free and out there.
This is a winner! Outside and thoughtful in excellent ways.
— Grego Applegate Edwards, New York City Jazz Record, February 2013
Vocalist Alexis Parsons is well seated in the jazz tradition. Her previous record was a set of wide-ranging takes on standards accompanied by pianist Frank Kimbrough. One can sense the influence of theatrical and art songs and perhaps even the phonetics of her Greek and Swedish heritage.
Her second recording is another duo with a pianist and her playing partner couldn’t be a better choice. Like Parsons, Connie Crothers has a unique way of extending the jazz language without abandoning it, often recalling romantic elegance of Chopin, Elgar or Schumann but with the punctuated underpinnings of her mentor Lennie Tristano. Together they have crafted a spirited and inventive record.
There is a throwback feeling to their duets at times. Parsons’ wordless vocals would not have been out of place alongside the avant-garde art songs of the ‘70s. But she’s able to go there and come back again.
She nicely borrows snatches of “It Ain’t Necessarily So” (from Porgy and Bess) in “Stranger” and the pair resolves the record with a wonderful take on “Wild is the Wind," a song that already bears the fingerprints of Johnny Mathis, Nina Simone and David Bowie. But the two find their own way through it with Crothers’ simply elegant phrasing and the most vulnerable vocals Parsons delivers in the set, focusing on the poetry of the words and almost whispering the melody.
Singer-with-piano-accompaniment isn’t often a pairing of equals, but Parsons and Crothers approach it as a couple of instrumentalists, moving in and out of themes, playing together and apart with ease. Hippin’ is a fresh setting of jazz classicism.
— Kurt Gottschalk, New York City Jazz Record, December 2012
Alexis Parsons, Connie Crothers – HIPPIN’: ... Connie’s piano is solidly behind the spoken-word Alexis is doing, especially on pieces like “Exactly… what?” If you’re not a spoken-word fan, you may not (exactly) “grok” what the duo is doing – but I can tell you, as an early proponent of spoken-word, that on this tune, Alexis rolls all the way from free-form to great blues form, & projects her power all the way! It’s the title cut, “Hippin’," that floats my boat in finest form, though … similar, in fact, to some sketches I’ve done before…. totally cool stream-of-consciousness event! Connie’s piano is pure improv on this one. I give Alexis & Connie a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who demand something different in their sonic adventures. “EQ” (energy quotient) is 4.97.
— Rotcod Zzaj, July 2014