Pauline Oliveros + Connie Crothers

Live At the Stone
Impress: Records No #

By Ken Waxman

The first, last and only musical meeting between jazz improviser Connie Crothers (1941-2016) and electronic music avatar Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016) took place in August 2014 and is preserved in its entirety on this disc. Like long-lost siblings reunited in their senior years that discover that they have complementary habits, Oliver’s and Crothers were probably surprised by how many musical ideas they shared. Both had an unerring sense of rhythm coupled with a mischievous sense of humor that refused to take things too serious, plus a talent for disruption.

You note this as the two work through this single, almost 40½ -minute improvisation where Crothers’ piano patterns are matched, mocked or multiplied by Oliveros’ dexterity on V-accordion. Besides keyboard and bellows, the ultra-modern squeeze box gave her the ability to manage wav files and playbacks so that processed interface is part of the mix. Tellingly, some of the pianist’s sweeping glissandi and chordal boosts have their antecedents in European romantic-styled sounds plus the silences and contorted patterns of more contemporary sounds. Still, as someone known as the most original advocate of jazz piano guru Lennie Tristano’s teachings, syncopation and the blues are an organic part of Crothers’ playing; note that half-way through she injects a scrap of “Caravan” into her solo.

On the other hand there are few if any antecedents to Oliveros’ musical architecture. Beginning with wavering jitters that parallel staccato pianism, her instrumental bled of locomotive-like tremolos, slide-whistle-like warbles and synthesized vocalizing, plus a dramatic clash of basso keyboard slurs marks the improvisation’s climatic mid-point. From that point on, Crothers’ jazz-inflected key probes and dynamic variations are almost subverted by the accordionist’s treble puffs and blurry, sometimes backwards moving bellows quivers. United for a final intense sequence, like a trick ending to a mystery novel, the completion of the subsequent processional musical tale confirms that the two’s parallel paths are more cohesive and connective than initially suggested. A fitting memorial to departed talents, Live At The Stone suggests the collaboration that could have deepened and maybe brought in other sonic currents had not fate intervened.

-For MusicWorks #129 Winter 2017