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The CD

Review’s and Mark Weber’s Poem from the CD by Bill Payne(clarinet) and Connie Crothers (piano) titled:


Conversations CD cover

Click to Hear it at CD Baby


Email Bill or phone (702)328-4308 for info.

This CD was Voted one of the “Best 10 Jazz CD’s Released in 2008” by Bill Shoemaker (Down Beat) and Art Lange (Point of Departure) in the
Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll.



Connie Crothers/Bill Payne (New Artists)
By Marc Medwin – AllAboutJazz-New York – November, 2008

Connie Crothers is one of the most versatile pianist on a scene that is often mislabeled “free” jazz. Her pianism has been cultivated through long years of studying and deep listening, evident in each tone, chord and gesture. Overwhelming intensity, at whatever volume, is juxtaposed with transparent beauty in a style that is as unique as it is unpredictable
Crothers has the perfect partner in clarinetist Bill Payne, this disc of dialogs belying a long musical relationship. Just listen to the moment in “Conversation #3” when Payne plays a two-note figure, immediately following which Crothers flourishes downward to land on Payne’s
E-flat. In fact, counterpoint is the duo’s MO throughout. It opens “Conversation #4” and is even more rigorous in the tenth conversations. Crothers’ Tristano association is made plain in the latter, but as the tenth track heats up, bluesy inflections and clusters pervade, lending to a surprisingly trilled ending from Payne. By contrast there are the Messiaenic sonorities of “Conversation #12” and, with pPayne beginning in the lower registers and with such rhythmic freedom, it almost sounds like a movement left out of Quartet for the End of Time.
The duo’s rhythmic diversity is stunning. “Conversation #1” finds them establishing motoric rhythms in variously shifting meters seemingly without effort. If several of the improvised pieces do, in fact, invoke the high dynamics usually associated with Cecil Taylor, such concerns are momentary and they reflect only one facet of this duo’s remarkable ability to communicate quickly and efficiently on many levels. This is improvised music at it’s finest!


There’s not a wasted note on these tightly constructed, pithy duets between pianist Connie Crothers and clarinetist Bill Payne. Each of the fourteen improvisations sprouts from an initial phrase played by each partner and grows by means of elaborations, variations, and recapitulations of the seed planted by the first notes. Throughout each improvisation, Crothers and Payne remain absolute equals, synchronizing their lines of development without there ever appearing to be a leader and a follower. But they are clearly listening to one another in these intimate dialogues. Each will pick up a hint from the other –mimic a contour, shadow a phrase – but use it only long enough to weave it into what he or she is doing. It’s a kind of a hall of fun house mirrors effect, where images are warped and reflected back and forth until they are utterly transformed. Tempos remain at slow and medium, but there’s lots of variety in other aspects of their collaboration. “Conversation #2” is full of shor t gestures, Crothers making brief sweeping arcs as if she were juggling scarves, while Payne dips and arcs like a dragon fly. “Conversation #4” is a braid, a macramé construction of lines and knots of chords that form beautiful patterns. On “The Desert and the City,” Payne’s clarinet moves like a leaf buffeted by the wind, tracing long peregrinations, then wafting upward in little curlicues, or using multiphonics to jump in place. Crothers under girds and enfolds Payne with a kaleidoscopic progression of chords and note clusters. The precision with which they fit together is uncanny at times. Like all students of Lennie Tristano, Crothers is often branded as cool, but this is very passionate music, a product of intense concentration and discipline as well as emotional openness and depth.
Ed Hazell
Point of Departure


yamaha_stone1Bill Payne and Connie Crothers in Concert, painted live at “The Stone” in New York City December 14, 2008 by Jeff Schlanger of musicwitness.com . (click image for closer view).

“Listened to your CD. Very nice music I think. The interaction between the two of you is amazing. Piano and clarinet is never an easy duo but you did a fine work. Nice surprise from 2 very capable musicians.” – Fred Van Hove


Clarinetist Bill Payne is the very definition of the itinerant musician—his extensive résumé lists stints with at several traveling circuses, Broadway and Vegas shows, tours with the Russ Carlyle Orchestra, cruise-ship bands, and the infrequent bad day gig. Pianist Crothers’s pedigree is a bit purer from a jazz perspective: once the protégé of Lennie Tristano, she remains one of the most exceptional representatives of his musical philosophy. Payne cites studies with Crothers as a turning point in his life. He’s now obviously her peer. This track presents the pair in intense one-on-one engagement. Payne’s non-tonal lines are classically tinged, augmented by a jazz musician’s concern with forward motion and free expression. Crothers has the touch of a first-rate Debussy interpreter, and here her lines as well possess an impressionistic strain. Each player gives as much as he/she takes. Their interplay is indeed conversational, albeit highly animated—even argumentative. Crothers’s status as one of the most accomplished in/out improvisers is only enhanced by this release. Payne’s rep, newly minted compared to hers, benefits even more.

Chris Kelsey





Cosimo Parisi

Due musicisti dalle diverse origini – Connie Crothers al piano e Bill Payne al clarinetto – intessono serrati dialoghi liberamente improvvisati, divertendosi a proporre una musica dalle coordinate piuttosto originali. Lei proviene dalla scuola di Lennie Tristano ed il suo quartetto insieme a Richard Tabnik, Roger Mancuso ed un contrabbassista c he cambia a seconda delle occasioni è una delle realtà musicali contemporanee più interessanti, Bill Payne invece ha suonato un pò ovunque e di tutto, comprese orchestre per il circo.

Un dialogo libero dunque, per due strumenti che di solito non si incontrano facilmente (un altro esempio è quello dei fratelli Joachim e Rolf Kuhn) e che prendono strade convergenti improvvisando quello che passa l´intuizione del momento.

La loro è una musica free, che rifiuta l´immediatezza espressiva: li si apprezza piuttosto per la bellezza delle linee melodiche, per la pulizia dle suono di Payne e per il delicato accompagnamento della pianista americana, a scoprire attimi di dialogo totale, senza alzare troppo la voce. Alcuni brani sono di breve lunghezza, aderendo quasi alla poetica del minimalismo, altri piu lunghi, dalle atmosfere crepuscolari, notturne, a modo loro coinvolgenti per chi presta attenzione a questo genere di proposte.


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 into 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


Phone: (702)328-4308