CONNIE CROTHERS / MICHAEL BISIO – Session At 475 Kent

Mutable

While not likely to cause ecstatic dyspnoea, these four improvisations by pianist Crothers – a protégée of Lennie Tristano during her formative years, and a frequent artistic partner of Max Roach – and restless bassist Bisio include fractions of absorbing spontaneous interaction. As a whole, though, Session At 475 Kent sounds like a string of unrehearsed combinations lacking several of the sublime aspects of instantaneous musical trade. Recorded via a couple of Neumann microphones at Crothers’ loft – a suitable place for etching music on tape, given its ampleness and the resonant materials contained therein – the program does offer a number of promising moments. For example “Improvisation #5”, in which a sequence of clustery chords is accompanied by an arco drone before the duo finds a way to open things up a bit. Bisio starts plucking quickly as Crothers executes agile runs on the various regions of the keyboard, a reciprocal highlighting of an unquestionable technical grounding in a vein that’s associable to bebop more than one could conceive. Intelligible shapes are depicted in remarkable digital rapidity, the latter luckily limited to short periods; subsequently, the players start hunting for resounding correlations and mounting dynamics.

Regrettably, genuine pathos remains mostly unseen. Even the segments in which soulful substance seems to prevail – as in the magnificent beginning of “Improvisation #7”, distinct chamber flavours informing the juxtaposition of Bisio’s suggestive tensions and Crothers’ cadenced figurations and blocks of notes – the interplay inexorably heads towards the area where sheer experimentation defeats a truly sympathetic response, a sense of solid coldness appearing time and again. This disconnection from mournfulness and/or lyricism does not necessarily imply a loss of intensity, however there’s something in these duets that occasionally smothers my belief. Call it shortage of heart, overplaying, propensity to look into a mirror; what I’m daring to say is that a measure of ego is detectable, and it definitely weakens the record’s legitimacy, especially in certain overwrought sections of the longest track “Resonances”. If you get thrilled by consistent acoustic features elicited by an improvisational course of action, then this is an excellent release by any means. But if it’s unadulterated emotion that you’re looking for, parts of it will result disappointing, as the artists didn’t manage to completely transmit their visceral reaction to what was being played.

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