Deep Listening

Certain improvisers manage to sound clueless even at the highest heights of their technique, others act as militants but their wheels are perennially stuck in the mud of commonplace. Then there is a rank of experienced players who seem just happy to deliver solid music, elaborating eventual incidents and unexpected ramifications in the meantime. The Crothers/Norton duo – here recorded in a performance dated September 2006 in Kingston, NY downloadable from the label’s website – furnishes the listener with equal quantities of complexity and clarity inside four episodes characterized by a type of interplay that does not permit compromise in spite of a relative accessibility. The acoustic properties of Norton’s vibes – metallic luminescence often sliced into cynically dissonant segments of glimmering resonance – are nicely engraved within Crothers’ convincingly rational pianism, a style that excludes romantic escapades without appearing icy. Discovering subplots in the instrumental dialogue is always interesting – and when alto saxophonist Tabnik joins in during the final track “One Earth”, the voices fuse in a no-nonsense collective jargon equidistant from categorizations and styles.

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