Richard Sussman

Live at Sweet Rhythm

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MUSIC REVIEW BY Thomas Conrad, JazzTimes

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Much of the jazz art form in contained in obscure artifacts preserved, against all odds, from the clutches of oblivion. That is the story behind this album, well told in Neil Tesser's liner notes. It goes something like this: In 1978, pianist-composer Richard Sussman made an LP called 'Free Fall' on Inner City. It had an afterlife as a kind of underground classic. Susman's intriguing compositions clearly provoked and inspired trumpeter Tom Harrell and tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi, two special players coming into their prime. In 2003 Sussman purchased the rights to 'Free Fall' and reissued it on CD. There was a "re-release party" in Greenwich Village. Improbably, Sussman was able to reassemble the original band members, including bassist Mike Richmond and drummer Jeff Williams. The gig was recorded. 'Live at Sweet Rhythm' is a seven-year-old tribute to a 32-year-old project.

The band, 25 years older and wiser, still has chemistry, based on Sussman's unusual, graceful tunes and the contrasting reactions of Bergonzi and Harrell. Bergonzi's opening notes on every solo are a command, impossible to ignore. He is an exciting tenor saxophonist because, even on ballads like Tadd Dameron's "Soultrane," and especially on fast pieces like Sussman's "Tiahuanaco," his ideas come in a rush. He sounds just on the edge of getting ahead of himself but always turns out to have a plan. Tom Harrell, who was feeling it on this occasion, plays some of his wildest solos on record (check out "Free Fall"), yet his personal trumpet lyricism remains intact. He smokes "What's New," creatively smearing it.

Sussman holds his own. His best solo is his hovering, swirling construct on "Lady of the Lake." It was seven years ago and Sweet Rhythm has closed and the band was transitory. It was a night worth preserving.






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