Connie Crothers Quartet
Connie Crothers, piano
Richard Tabnik, alto saxophone
Roger Mancuso, drums
Sean Smith, bass
2. My Shining Hour
3. Come Rain or Come Shine
4. Bird's Word
6. Double Chi
"Ontology" sustains the most exhilarating and inventive hard bop I have heard in many years and I imagine that to catch this band on a good night must be awesome. You must check "Ontology" out!
Cadence, January 2001
"The solos here are unique and challenging. (Tabnik) frequently uses the extreme upper register and plays angular lines. ... Crothers has a very active left hand, which she sometimes brings to the fore, and the complex interplay of her left and right hands deserves close attention."
Jazz Times, November 2000
On the quartet album Ontology, Crothers has an opportunity to stretch out in tandem with alto player Richard Tabnik and a complementary rhythm team of drummer Roger Mancuso and bassist Sean Smith. Mancuso has been associated with Crothers since the 1970s when they recorded on the Steeplechase label. The heavy, penetrating piano of Crothers is again present, but her introspective nature is tempered and redirected outwardly through her association with the other musicians. Tabnik contributes a lofty, spiraling alto sound that swirls around and inside the piano eddies of Crothers. The tunes have a semblance of structure but are really freelance expressions spun off the song format. Tabnik has the soul of a bop player trying to emerge and penetrate the wall of unconventionality that defines the program. He speaks in a liberated tongue, but his improvisations contain a modicum of form that suggests roots in more traditional modes of expression. His composition "Fortuity" has tangible handles and the changes of "Everything Happens to Me" to enforce even further this dual personality.
The band maintains the Crothers' stance on playing popular tunes. "My Shining Hour" and "Come Rain or Come Shine" are artfully cloaked in newness to make them unusual and challenging. Direction is given by Smith and Mancuso, who have a foothold in the time zone to counteract the liberated wanderings of Crothers. They become an interesting counterpoint when supporting her solos. Crothers' playing is far ranging and involved, while the bass and drums provide the berth for docking the ship should it ever come to port. The recording is one of contrasts pitting the searching soul of Crothers against the stability of her band. It results in a very enjoyable session where the two factions coexist and thrive. Mostly, it provides further substantiation of the inventive talent of Crothers, who can transform any tune into a personal statement of creative expression.
"The most striking aspect of the music they create is their ability to communicate their individuality while blending into a functioning, cohesive ensemble. This requires a considered approach to the question of "...the nature aand relations of being..." in a democratic group context -- thus ontology. Maintaining an individual identity while coalescing into such a satisfying ensemble, and simultaneously creating such a high level of musical quality and surprise, is the true challenge of jazz. The degree to which these four musicians succeed on "Ontology" is refreshing and rare."
onefinalnote.com, September 2001