Connie Crothers Quartet
Connie Crothers, piano
Richard Tabnik, alto saxophone
Roger Mancuso, drums
Ken Filiano, bass
2. Roy's Joy
5. Deep Friendship
Recorded live November 7, 2010, at the Jazz Room, William Patterson University
The music of pianist Connie Crothers has its roots in that of Lennie Tristano, with whom she studied for years. But she has forged her own original path, opening new dimensions in improvisation. Her quartet with alto saxophonist Richard Tabnik, whom she met in the 80s, and with Roger Mancuso, with whom she has been playing and recording since the 70s, is one of the most interesting organizations in contemporary jazz. Joining them this time is bassist Ken Filiano in a live concert recorded at William Paterson University. This spontaneously captured music features five compositions that the band has previously recorded on other occasions; but here they stretch out in a live context with extended solos. The fact that these musicians have known each other so well for decades gives the music and the solos a creative spontaneity. The music moves in its own direction without regard to contemporary mainstream trends. Richard Tabnik's saxophone solos are a pleasure to hear, his horn sounding like a human voice, lyrical, heart rending, at times capable of naturally transforming his sax into an oriental instrument, without losing any of the spontaneity with which he operates. He is one of the most original exponents of his instrument in contemporary jazz. Crothers' accompaniment as well as her soloing are models of creativity that do not conform to the standard canons. The four musicians follow their own paths in the context of improvisation, and this quartet establishes itself as one of today's most interesting and creative groups. Mancuso, for example, has his own way of accompanying and dialoguing with the others, with his unstoppable drive that imbues the music with vitality. Filiano, whom we know from many contexts, both inside and outside of classical jazz, is a first-rate virtuoso, which he demonstrates in his long pizzicato solo in "Roy's Joy." This band gives the contemporary mainstream a new, original face. The quartet pursues its own path without following or attempting to reproduce any of the successful models.
—Vittorio Lo Conte, musicZoom, November 2014
(translation by Lorenzo Sanguedolce)
FOUR STARS ****
The five originals on Deep Friendship are hefty expressions of post-bop that remain angular and mysterious and, at times, step outside their forms altogether, in a kind free playing. Once an important student of Lennie Tristano, Crothers' style is also reminiscent of late-'50s, early-'60s Cecil Taylor. Alto saxophonist Richard Tabnik, Crother's stalwart collaborator since the early '80s, somehow manages to bring the sound and energy of Ornette Coleman and Archie Shepp, even as the band sounds contemporary and a bit more radical.
A good example of this interplay and spontaneous improvisation comes with Crothers' opening number, the quirky, labyrinthine "Ontology." A medium-tempo piece, it swings when it isn't pausing and reflecting, Tabnik's wailing alto doubling up with Crothers' busy single lines.
Recorded live in November of 2010, the CD suffers from poor recording quality (another, more conventional historical reference being Coleman's live date with pianist Paul Bley, also a quartet recording). That said, the playing throughout manages to overcome the audio aspects, due in part to the intensity and surefootedness of everyone here, including drummer Roger Mancuso (who joined Crothers in 1974 for the album Perception) and bassist Ken Filiano, musicians able to read the other two's deft moves in and out of each song's involved structures en route to extended blowing.
On Tabnik's "Linearity," Crothers' goading piano lines express a kind of alter ego to Tabnik's angular, swinging wails. Crothers' playing is restless, delicate, her fluid lines punctuated by chord clusters that evoke images of her wrists as well as fingers getting in on the action. "Deep Friendship" closes out the set, a medium-tempo waltz that reflects back on the unity of all four members, with Tabnik at the foundation. Deep Friendship itself comes across like a special home recording session, and everyone's invited.
—John Ephland, Downbeat Magazine, October 2014