listen to Connie Crothers and Bill Payne | to be continued


The clarinet in jazz seems to go in and out of fashion every couple of decades. This may be in part because its subtle sounds don‘t necessarily fit with the high-volume, over-miked and often heavily electronic ensembles of our contemporary music culture; and partly also, I suspect, because in its understated way the clarinet conveys emotions with directness that challenges our desensitized comfort zones.

cdback466.jpgNever mind. The CD you‘re holding here is not a fashion statement but a sequence of free – improvisation musical dialogues inviting you to listen in.To do so, you may want to take a minute to minimize the ambient background noise of your own environment. These twelve “Conversations“ tracks, sandwiched between an opening “The Desert and the City“ and enigmatic ciosing “To Be Continued‘ will repay undistracted and active contemplation.

Bill Payne is a new voice to this listener, having worked for more than two decades in circus bands and other jobs outside music, while sustaining his soul and spirit with his musical passion even when that means playing only tor himself. He is currently based in Las Vegas. Living and playing outside the music industry with its land mines of clichés and commercial compromises, he‘s also been periodically part of the New York “loft“ scene – meaning performances staged mainly in artists‘ apartments because commercial venues aren‘t interested in taking a chance – along with his longtime musical associate Connie Crothers and other determined stalwarts.

Crothers has spoken and written of moving beyond the separation of free improvisation from tunes including a memorable occasion when she risked inserting a free improvisation number in her group‘s set at a tourist – packed Blue Note night club in New York, and got the biggest ovation of the evening. Crothers was a student of the legend- ary Lennie Trlstano, whose playing combined the detailed knowledge of melody and “changes“ with the rigorous avoidance of lapsing into well – worn bebop clichés.

In her quartet recordlngs tor this label, Crothers has deepened and extended Lennie Tristano‘s legacy. More immediately relevant here, she has specialized in the duet format with its distinctive opportunities for unencumbered communication, recording for example with saxophonist Richard Tabnik, guitarist Bud Tristano, and drummers Roger Mancuso and – way back in 1982, the inaugural recording tor the New Artists label – the immortal Max Roach.

On the borderline of what‘s called “jazz“ and a broader avant – garde that defies boundaries and labels, Payne and Crothers share ideas, build and extend each other‘s phrases without getting in each other‘s way. Melody arises spontaneously rather than be pre – set structural design, as generaily required for larger ensembles. Happily tor this listener. This is acoustic music without electronic distortion and distraction.

billpayneportrait.jpgBill Payne‘s range and truly beautiful sound on the clarinet should hold your attention. There‘s also enough vanety in tempo and volume to sustain interest, but don‘t expect massive crescendos or crowdpleasing effects. lt‘s about playing and listening to and for each other. But when artists of this caliber converse together, there‘s always a third participant: you, the hearer. Open your ears, listen and join in. DAVID FINKEL

I would like to thank, first of all, my wife Danise for having faith in me and always advising me to “Go for it.“ I would also like to thank Connie tor her continued musical inspiration. The great saxophonist Richard Tabnik for his insight and conversation.The poet Mark Weber for his friendship and knowledge of music and literature. And I would like to send a special thanks to Haik Goomroyan for his generosity when I really need a private place to practice. BILL PAYNE


metal & wood
hammer‘d & saw‘d
becomes a clarinet or a piano
eventually goes back to
sand & water
becomes trees
galactic, swirling,
becomes notes again
so far into the future
you need a wormhole
to go there, waiting
for a cab in Brooklyn
or a bus in Las Vegas
it’s all a dice roll
cosmic dust, time reversed,
the circus is in town, wet
a reed baby
we got Charlie Parker
bringing us home
bringing us to the place
where time goes in all directions

this record, cut near the mouth of
the East River, could be
ice skaters, gulls wheeling
sideways overhead, all the clouds
of the Atlantic, this record is
what an afternoon is like

Mark Weber | 29JUNE07

Buy Bill Payne and Connie Crothers – Conversations – New Artists 1044 (CD or MP3) here…

listen to Connie Crothers and Bill Payne | to be continued

more on Bill Payne can be found here…