Tue Sep 8 2009
Photograph: Ken Weiss
The Stone; Wed 16
Most nights of the week in local venues, you can hear musicians playing raw, ’60s-style free jazz. Likewise, it’s a snap to catch bands specializing in older strains such as postbop. Far more rare, however, is the chance to witness an artist who draws on both modes but accepts neither of them wholesale.
Enter Connie Crothers, a strikingly original pianist-composer who curates the Stone from September 17 to 30 and performs in a variety of settings, including a Wednesday 16 improv invitational featuring John Zorn. The 68-year-old is best known to jazz fans for her close relationships with two late titans: pianist Lennie Tristano, with whom Crothers studied during the ’60s and ’70s, and percussionist Max Roach, her duet partner from the ’80s through the aughts.
But Crothers has done her best work with far less-well-known players. Her decade-old quartet with saxist Richard Tabnik, drummer Roger Mancuso and several different bassists—performing September 26—is among the most winningly unpredictable small bands on the current landscape. As heard on 2006’s Music Is a Place, the musicians swing hard through Crothers’s thorny yet charming compositions, but they also know when to follow an improvisational tangent into a gorgeous free-time swirl. Fittingly, the pianist rounds out the month by programming younger players, such as saxist Nick Lyons (September 24) and guitarist Adam Caine (September 30), who favor a similarly subtle, ungeneric brand of iconoclasm.—Hank Shteamer