Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Lennie Tristano, The Duo Sessions. With Lenny Popkin, Connie Crothers, Roger Mancuso


I was lucky to come across Lennie Tristano's piano brilliance pretty early in my music listening world--via a ten-inch RCA anthology of "Jazz Piano" that included a very nice Tristano version of "I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You." I took to it immediately and from then on I appreciated everything of his I came across, little-by-little. Fast forward to today and some really worthy unreleased Tristano from his later years, The Duo Sessions (Dot Time CD DT8016).

It covers three sessions, from 1970, around 1976 and around 1967-68, respectively. The first locks in with Lennie Popkin on saxaphone, the second with Connie Crothers also on piano, and the third tandems Tristano with drummer Roger Mancuso.

The sound quality is good and the music inspired, a freely articulated kind of Avant Post-Bop/Late Bop. There is no flagging, nothing cliche, nothing humdrum, in other words it is all we might hope for and expect.

So there is a wonderful wealth of late FreeBop lucidity in the sessions with Lennie Popkin, and as you listen you realize that Popkin was and is yet another articulate and swinging saxman of the Lennie School, in my count the third after Konitz and Marsh, sounding really inspired here.

The duos with the great Connie Crothers is supremely out there in the happiest ways and are worth the price of admission alone.

And then with Roger Mancuso as duo-mate we enjoy Lennie with some nicely propulsive drumming--very forward moving in ways that suggest that Lennie here welcomes a more busy drum presence than he is sometimes accused of not abiding. Listen to their improvisations off of "You Stepped Out of a Dream" and you will hear some exciting fare! But it is all good.

All coms across as super together improvs, first-rate later Tristano that anyone who appreciates the truly MODERN world of his spontaneous best will welcome with some joy--like I did and do! Bravo! Indispensable Tristano for all who already know or want to explore. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

In Memory of Mark Whitecage, The Nu Band Live at the Bopshop


Mark Whitecage was one of those reedists whose importance to Avant Jazz was as pivotal as anyone of his generation. Yet the world at large mostly never quite knew of him. He left us this past March 7, 2021, more than a year ago as of this writing. Happily there is an album out that celebrates his life at the same time as it features his performance with the Nu Band live in Rochester, NY on January 18, 2018.  It is entitled  In Memory of Mark Whitecage, The Nu Band Live at the Bopshop (Not Two NW 1019-2).

The band is a most notable one--with Whitecage on alto, clarinet and Dine flute, Thomas Heberer on quarter-tone trumpet, Joe Fonda on bass and flute, and Lou Grassi on drums and percussion. These of course are players who occupy a central place in Improv circles, stalwart innovators and steadfast performers in key sessions over the past several decades or so.

And this one puts all that together in a full blown set where you hear channeled and transformed the history of the Free scene from Ornette, the NY Contemporary Five and on to these artists in complete concordance, in a logical progression. It all can swing or expand outwards in articulations beyond regular pulsations. and everybody has something good to say in the musical dialog.

Each artist contributes one compositional framework or so and all together everything pops out at you with dynamic ecstatics. Happily Mark sounds great and for all that everybody is putting it all together here in a most fitting way, reminding us that Mark Whitecage was on top of the world in his playing even in later years, and for that matter affirming that the Nu Band was/is one to be reckoned with! The front line AND the rhythm section score and we all are the benefactors.

I could wax on but it all comes together if you put this one in front of your ears. RIP Maestro Whitecage and thanks for all the music. Listen to this one, buy it if you can. Bravo!