Richard Grossman

Trio in Real Time

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Was there ever a pianist like Richard Grossman? The late pianist was imbued with a harmonic sensibility that seemed to come from the twinning of the spheres rather than from music theory. While his music was uncompromising in its vision, it was not, however, inaccessible. If anything, Grossman' s music was so open, though so thoroughly different, anyone could go inside it and be moved by something they heard. On this live date, the formidable drummer Alex Cline and bassist Ken Filiano accompany Grossman at a gig in California. The gig opens with "Unusual Hats," one of Grossman's mysterious, beautiful solos that is akin in its iconographic and idiosyncratic construction to one of Joseph Cornell's boxes. It opens enough to draw you into its world, but leaves you to sort out the language for yourself. The trio enters on "Our Lizard Skin," a free kind of piece where Grossman wants to keep it moving and relies on the pulsing of Filiano's bass locked into its near groove as it works harmonically to balance piano and drums. Cline is everywhere; he's above Grossman, in his face, under him, and around the corner getting a beer. The pianist likes this fine as he moves toward erecting one of his towering arpeggio structures that cuts through intervallic vocabulary and all sense of time. And movement is the key, whether it's the nod to neo-trad in "Silk the Color of the Water" or the thorough abstraction and droning tones of "Fanfare of Indigo," Grossman keeps his band moving toward it, that small dot he alone could see and hear at the end of the tunnel that opened out onto panoramic vistas of musical language as yet unheard in this world. And he takes them there fairly often here, and almost always in his solo work. If Grossman's name is not familiar to some fans of improvised music or free jazz, it's only because he was virtually ignored by critics who would rather accept Cecil Taylor's obtuse theories about his fireworks displays on the keyboard. Grossman was a quiet man who strove to express every sound he could imagine existed, and some that didn't, in a near mythological sequence of events that he not only ordered and created, but also adhered to. This is brilliant.

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