A Stylistic and Geographic Traveler Savors His Homecoming


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From one angle, the career of the saxophonist Steve Grossman might seem to have unfolded in reverse. He came onto the radar in 1969, playing state-of-the-art jazz-rock with Miles Davis; he was all of 18. From that sideman perch, among the most visible in jazz, he went on to play rugged, horizon-scanning postbop in the style of John Coltrane, notably with Coltranes former drummer Elvin Jones. Then came a more traditionalist stretch, followed by relative obscurity after he moved to Europe. Before his run at the Jazz Standard, which ended on Sunday, he hadnt played a New York club in well over a decade.

The tidiness of that timeline doesnt quite do justice to Mr. Grossman, 58, whose early obsessions revolved around Charlie Parker and bebop. Born in Brooklyn and reared on Long Island, he came of age when jazz was in flux and notions of linear progress--conceivable in the shadow of Parker, but less so in the wake of Coltrane--had begun to break apart. The dislocations in his style, which combines old-fashioned gallantry with harmonic restlessness, reflect these open-ended realities, even as they reinforce the stubborn fact of a distinctive voice.

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