Max Roach, drums | Connie Crothers, piano
Tracklist: 1. Symbols 2. Let Em Roll 3. Swish 4. Creepin In 5. Ballad No. 1 6. Trading
Recording Date: February 26, 1982
“Swish” reissues Crothers’ 1982 duets with Max Roach, who is definitely not a student of the Tristano school of passive drumming. The relative freedom of the duet setting fits the tension and energy of Crothers’ uninhibited playing much better. Roach is always fascinating in a duet, where he expands his role, occupying the open spaces in unexpected, always musical ways. Here, he focuses on different elements of the drum kit with each piece to give the largely improvised performances their distinctive character. The ways in which Roach reacts to and provokes Crothers are reminiscent of Roach’s Historic Concerts (1979) duets with Cecil Taylor. — Jon Andrews, Downbeat — August 1994
While the duo exchange of the open-ended improvisation are not new performance propositions for Roach, his collaboration with Connie Crothers, a pianist who has expanded Tristano’s labyrinthine complexes, is a refreshing surprise. Of all of Roach’s recent duo activities, his encounter with Crothers is most analogous to his work with Anthony Braxton, as the music pivots more on concepts, moods, and procedures than on concrete thematic materials. While Crothers employs many of the percussive techniques associated with Cecil Taylor, a close comparison to the now-legendary, never-issued Taylor/Roach duo concert would be farfetched, as the core of Crothers’ style is a linearity and a deliberate sense of motivic development derived from Tristano. Crothers’ orientation lends an introspective element to much of the album, particularlythe haunting “Ballad No. 1″. The strategies of several of the compositions are described or hinted at by their titles, although it should be noted that “Trading” has nothing to do with the four- and eight-bar structures Roach mastered in the ’40s, and the “Let ‘Em Roll” showcases Roach’s timbral control on tom-toms. Most important, the mark of a successful duet–responsiveness–is in evidence throughout the program. — Bill Shoemaker, Downbeat — September 1983
No one works harder to keep alive and extend Tristano’s legacy than pianist Connie Crothers, his friend and student. On “Swish” she pairs up with Roach,…The music on “Swish” though is a far remove from bop. Moving into territoryhinted at by Tristano 35 years before, Roach and Crothers engage in abstract, improvised dialogues as much about texture and gesture as specific harmonic and rhythmic schemes. Roach, of course, in an acknowledged master at this kindof interplay. But Roach, as the star, doesn’t dominate, nor does Crothers assume the lead role you’d expect of a pianist. Rather, they carry on a lively conversation with Crothers’ sweeping lines and rumbling bass patterns often subtly echoing Roach’s figures. The titles describe the pieces: “Symbols” features Roach’s cymbal play; “Let ‘Em Roll” his tom-tom tattoos; “Tradin’” has Crothers and Roach playing alternating cadenzas. Only the title “Creepin’ In” doesn’t fit the music; this piece doesn’t creep but dashes along at a quick clip. Demanding music, but worth the effort.–David Dupont, Cadence — October 1993.
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