IAJE JAZZ EDUCATORS JOURNAL, March 2000|
BLUE CHIP JAZZ CD AWARD
Selected as one of 1999 Top New Jazz Issues.
Dr. Herb Wong
ALL MUSIC GUIDE , August 1999
4 1/2 STARS
This absolutely delightful gem features the quirky piano of Larry Bluth leading his trio through a set of mostly standards. Bluth's often brooding interpretations of such popular numbers as "There Will Never be Another You," "All of Me," and "She's Funny that Way" are fascinating to hear, as he infuses some dusty tunes with entirely new life. His horn-like forays coupled with good use of the left hand and plenty of block chords establish the pianist as a highly creative voice. His solos dissect melodies systematically though stealthily, quietly forging offbeat paths. The two Bluth originals are actually reworkings of "What is this Thing Called Love" and "The Best Thing for You is Me." The freely improvised "Formations" is based on the changes to "All the Things You Are."
Steven A. Lowey
GREEN MOUNTAIN JAZZ MESSENGER, January 2000
"If felt more like a jazz club than an austere concert environment." From the Museum of Modern Art comes a surprise: a straight-ahead sound, slightly off-center. Superficially like Bill Evans, these guys drive harder, with a cerebral bent to the tunes. Look at "A Rhyme," based on "What Is This Thing Called Love" with new chords. The sardonic line turns at odd angles, and the left hand chords when it wants to. (This doesn't mean chaos; as Bluth spins, you see a logic, be it unconventional.) Don Messina is a hybrid: the speed of LaFaro, but he steps low, walking with special agility. Time is lost here, as the men build their own environment. And one worth visiting.
The trio splits on "Another You:" while rhythm drives a solid beat, Bluth takes it slow, tossing little slivers of theme. Wandering lines, then bursts of sound - the beat goes on, oblivious. Intriguing . . . "She's Funny" . . . a ballad with hints of unrest. There's a strong sense of theme, and the solo bends graceful, every odd note in place. Same is true of "I Never Knew:" the quirks evolve without the self-conscious feel you get elsewhere. Notes swarm around Bluth, and Messina's turn is a standout. Its' a taste that warms to you, a "different" sound you can understand.
"All of Me" is a highlight for Bluth: from total abstractions comes sweet phrases, leading to others, and from this the theme - an unexpected journey, and a thrill. "Formations" based on "All The Things You Are," takes a nimble theme and ponders sparsely. Where Bluth takes measured steps, Messina comes running - a lovely bounce, and a great sense of melody. "Everything Happens to Me" is loaded with warmth; the theme comes straight, followed by soft angularity. Bluth listens well to Messina's solo; his comps nearly makes it a duet. And wait for "On Time:" the theme scales upward, muses darkly and coasts on strong rhythm. The chords splash, and there a tiny hint of Monk - welcome when it comes. Its a strong base, from which departures arrive - like most of the album. It's a step in a new terrority, while keeping to the roads you know. And, if you have curious ears, you might want to visit.
John Barrett, Jr.
Jazz Journal, January 2000
Larry Bluth is an interesting and unusual piano stylist. On this album he plays a programme partly of his own compositions, "A Rhyme, "On Time" and "Formations," a collaboration with bassist Don Messina, who also wrote "For Sal," and drummer Bill Chattin, who also has composer credits for "Shoals." The remainder of the selected repertoire are well-known standards, which serve as a starting off point for involved, melodic and rhythmic variations. Bluth's approach is oblique, questing, the melodic line often only hinted at, or at times lost altogether - he also breaks up the basic beat and the harmonic structures. Bassist Messina and drummer Chattin are obviously well acquainted with his methods and do a manful job underpinning his piano with steady, swinging support, as well as playing good solos. "All of Me" is... a nicely sly piece of fun.
...Recommended as an interesting and unusual set of jazz piano trio improvisations. Sound quality is very good, playing time close to the maximum.
JAZZ NOW, November 1999
The trio`s third album for Zinnia focuses on compositions built on the progressions of standards... The musicians veer from their source material with great success, creating moods that, fortunately, have little in common with the originals. The trio's takes on the remaining unaltered standards are generally just as unique... Bluth in particular has enough personality in his experimentation to show that he has a cognitive adventurous reminiscent of Lennie Tristano to merit him becoming a more significant player in the Jazz Scene.
BOSTON GLOBE, July 1999
. . . one of 1999 best. Lennie Tristano lives for this piano trio. Their third disc [on Zinnia] revels in the joy of long lines and elegant harmonic turns.
CADENCE, August 1999
Bluth, Messina, and Chattin performed in concert where the acoustics were impeccable, and in the club setting where the audience shuffle and occasional glass tinkle are often audible. Bluth has a free and easy improvisational piano style. He injects a sense of airiness into his performance, playing in an open liberated manner even though six of the tunes are standard jazz fare. The melody lines may be initially recognizable, but Bluth quickly scurries off into improv-land, leaving the changes behind as he reinvents the songs. His program of tunes has an agreeable sense of style to it. It includes five selections he or the group members penned, several of which relate structurally to classic standards that they turn inside out to form a new composition. The constant throughout the extended performance, though, is Bluth's analytical yet easygoing creativity in dissecting the tunes. In methodical fashion, he journeys into the heart of the pieces and re-creates them in his own briskly vibrant image.
Messina and Chattin are steadfast supporters of Bluth and his direction. Responding at a layer under his playing, they gel in effective interaction with him. Occasional solo spots arise, but they basically perform in the assist mode, keeping the framework and structure from disappearing. Messina's bass lines are imaginative and when given the opportunity, he gets expressive. Chattin, however, is the real foundation. He maintains the fabric of the tunes by adhering religiously to time, allowing Bluth the room to go contrary to it. Bluth, Messina, Chattin are very effective in expressing uniqueness as a piano trio. While they use a semi-structured approach as a starting point, they are able to spring from that into more adventurous areas. This is great late-night jazz club music.
CUADERNOS DE JAZZ (SPAIN), November 1999
Founded in 1985 by Dan Fiore, in its 14 years of existence, Zinnia Records hasn't exactly been in a hurry to flood the market with its products: its current catalog consists of only fourteen titles. This is so, moreover, because of its specialization in a very specific type of album and artist. Fiore, a guitar player and student of Sal Mosca, has been adding names and recordings under the shadow and influence of Lennie Tristano, his followers and his students, his style and conception of improvisation. From guitarist Peter Prisco, initiator of the label with the album "It's About Time," to the duo of Charles Sibirsky and Murray Wall ("Just Jazz Just Two," Zinnia 102), through two magisterial albums that document a series of concerts realized in the Village Vanguard by Sal Mosca and Wayne Marsh ("Sal Mosca and Wayne Marsh Quartet Vol. 1-2," Zinnia 103/104).
One of the most consistent projects during these years is the trio formed by pianist Larry Bluth, bassist Don Messina, and drummer Bill Chattin: they have played regularly in the New York area since 1982 and have completed three recordings for Zinnia: "Live at Orfeo" (105), "Five Concerts and a Landscape" (109), and, most recently, "Formations" (114). These three discs deserve to be discovered by any fan of jazz or person interested in the art of the trio, and they are moreover essential for followers of the legacy of Tristano today. It's worth the trouble to read what Don Messina himself recently told us about his trio:
"Bill Chattin, our drummer, studied for six years with Lennie, in the seventies. Bill's the most sensible drummer of all those I've had the pleasure to play with. He knows how to listen to everything that Larry Bluth and I are playing and believe me, there are many things that are going on through Larry's hands and he (Bill) always maintains a good swinging line. He can play in such an intuitive and calm way! When I (Don Messina, Bassist) play a solo, Bill can play soft and the intensity of the group continues. There's no interruptions to the line when I do a solo, thanks overall to Bill. Between Bill and I, we can create a line for Larry Bluth that lets him do whatever he hears without leaving us behind. Larry always plays very relaxed and intense. Silence and space are a big part of his style. Every note is felt! Larry studied with Sal Mosca for 20 years and teaches piano and improvisation in Riverdale, NY. Larry is very spontaneous, relaxed, and I never know what's going to happen when he plays. It's always an adventure. We improvise over original lines from standards and lines from Charlie Parker, Warne Marsh, Lennie Tristano, Lester Young, etc. Everything is improvised: the melody, the harmony, the beginning, the ending. We keep ourselves to the tempo as much as we can."
Other works available from the label are "Notes from the Underground" (Zinnia 113), by trumpet player Bob Arthurs, and "Inside Out" (Zinnia 112), by guitarist Joe Giglio, without forgetting the excellent hand-to-hand between Sal Mosca and tenor sax Jimmy Halperin in "Psalm" (Zinnia 110): a 49-minute duet without pause, in which seven Halperin compositions are interpreted, first rubato and then improvised.
In summary, it deals with high-flying music, of immense pleasure, that deserves to be discovered by everyone. The only possible way now is through the Web site of Zinnia Records: http://www.concentric.net/~bmctrio. Other addresses of interest: Jazz Records (label specializing in recordings of Lennie Tristano): www.jazzrecordsinc.com.
JAZZ CANADIANA, August 2000
This is the third CD for Zinnia by the seasoned trio of Larry Bluth (Piano), Don Messina (Bass), and Bill Chattin (Drums). Ten of the eleven numbers were recorded in club settings some six months apart (10/6 - 4/97), while the Chattin original, "Shoals" (based on the chordal changes of "Back Home Again In Indiana"), stems from a pre-concert warm-up (2/98). In fact, all of the five cited-originals have their roots in standard tunes with harmonic chords fragmented into new and fresh interpretations - "A Rhyme" ("What Is This Thing Called Love?"), "Formations" ("All The Things You Are"), "For Sal" ("Out of Nowhere"), "On-Time" ("The Best Thing For You Is Me"). There is a comfortable, spontaneous interplay throughout. On the liner, there is a stated indebtedness to pianist Sal Mosca, and Bluth's technique seems to owe much to Mosca's use of empty space, a sparse economy of notes, and the oblique rhythm patterns that characterized Mosca's playing.
EXCLAIM, August 2000
As piano trios go, this one reaffirms the creative bedrock of an enduring jazz tradition. The fluent interplay of this trio results in ebullient swing as they explore fresh recreations of jazz standards like "All of Me," and "Everything Happens to Me." Continuing the tradition of pioneer Lennie Tristano . . . this trio explores tradition as a medium for transformation. Listen to the dense and intricate variations that Larry Bluth generates out of the melodic lines of "She's Funny That Way" and you will hear why the structures of the classic American songbook remain ideal vehicles for improvisers, especially players who possess the calibre and rapport of this excellent group.
JAZZ TIMES, September 2000
This is one of the most interesting piano trio recordings to come down the pike in recent years. Pianist Larry Bluth takes a nod from Lennie Tristano, as the group reinvents popular standards such as All of Me and Moonlight In Vermont. There is decidedly 1950s feel to it all . . . Bluth uses block chords and perfectly executed just-behind-the-beat runs, spurred by the exacting walking bass of Messina and the quietly efficient drums of Chattin. New ground is broken . . . as patterns are reharmonized.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ , October 2000
Formations, a trio outing led by pianist Larry Bluth . . . builds off [of] jazz standards, either directly or indirectly-about half the tunes on the record are standards, and the rest are originals derived from the chord changes of other standards. This is tight, swinging stuff, the group has the cohesion and maturity to maintain forward motion during quiet moments as well as times of passion. Formations combines the excitement of live improvisation with a surprising level of precision. Pianist Bluth's playing conveys an articulate, quick-minded eagerness. Drummer Bill Chattin, who mostly anchors a rock-solid swing, still manages to interject percolating snare rhythms on demand. Don Messina['s] style plays a central stabilizing role.
THE JAZZ SCENE, October 2000
4-STARS This very cool, laid-back, trio may not be for jazz novices, but once you begin to understand what cats like Lennie Tristano were all about, these guys sound terrific. It's not how many notes, it's which ones. And if you draw inspiration from Tristano, Bud Powell and such, you make every note count. Bluth and comrades, Don Messina, bass and Bill Chattin, drums, choose to fine new melodies and harmonies on such standards as There Will Never be Another You, She's Funny that Way, I Never Knew, All of Me, Moonlight in Vermont, and Everything Happens to Me. In addition, the five originals played here are, in the best Tristano tradition, based on the changes to equally familiar standards . . . it's invigorating, highly listenable and very creative. . . these guys did not forget how to swing.