Connie Crothers is important. Important to the music. Now Branford Marsalis, adding to the recent, rather over- weening pile-up/ discussion /furor about what's wrong with jazz," noted in a recent interview that cats from New York talk about so-and-so being important, yet no one outside of a small group of people know about it, so how could it be important? With all due respect for Mr. B. Marsalis, whose music I admire greatly, that's easy. The most important jazz today is hardly being listened to by Joe Blow in Podunk. There are reasons for that but they have nothing to do with importance. If a poet is important and yet Mr. Blow doesn't know about it, does that mean the poet isn't important? No. Joe Blow doesn't read any poetry at all, let alone poetry of a living writer. Same goes for jazz, pretty much.
It just so happens that today's recording involves both poetry and jazz. Connie Crothers Quartet and Mark Weber Live at the Stone/NYC (New Artists 1046) is what's on the table today. There's recitation by poet Mark Weber and there is Connie's quartet supplying the music. Is Mark Weber important? I can't tell you that because my knowledge of contemporary poets is not huge. But his poems are supra-personal, very much of today, evocative, and go well with the open-ended jazz format that Connie prefers.
This is not all recitation. There are chunks of pure music. Ms. Crothers' group has been honed with time and they were in good form that night at the Stone. Long-time associates Richard Tabnik on alto, and Roger Mancuso, drums, are there, as is the most excellent Ken Filiano on bass. They go the collective improvisational route here and so it's not a spotlight on Connie" kind of affair. But what all of them are doing, Connie included, is continuing to develop a free" sort of music that further evolves the vocabulary of the group, so that no one is copping licks from another player out there, past or present. They are strictly themselves. And the eleven-minute concluding number, Ontology," gives you the group sans poetry and so a further opportunity to hear the Quartet in a more pure" form.
It is a disk that takes a few listens to absorb. Neither Mr. Weber's poetry or the Quartet do things that Joe Blow in Podunk is going to understand without a little help and repeated listens. But even Joe could learn to dig this music. It has all the earmarks of something important." Maybe there's not as much of Ms. Crothers piano as on some of the other recordings, but this is a collective venture. And for that, yes, it is important. Don't blame the music if Mr. Blow does not have the chance nor inclination to hear it. This is America's music. People outside of America know more about it most of the time than Americans do. Now who will you blame for that? Don't blame Connie Crothers. Praise her, rather, for a lifetime of music I believe is important.