Personnel: Pat Mallinger, alto, tenor, soprano saxophones; Bill Carrothers, piano; George Fludas, drums; Dennis Carroll, bass.
Pat Mallinger Quartet
Home On Richmond
Saxophonist Pat Mallinger grew up in West St. Paul, Minn., while pianist Bill Carrothers is a native of the greater Minneapolis area. Having met in the McDonald’s All Star High School Jazz Ensemble, the pair have played together throughout the years and reunited for this live date at Chicago’s Green Mill.
As co-leader of Sabertooth, Mallinger has held down a Saturday night slot at the legend- ary club since 1992. So there’s definitely a home-field advantage at play in terms of com- fort level.
A take on Charles Lloyd’s “Third Floor Richard” opens the album. The band is immediately both locked in and loose, as the bandleader’s spry tenor tone sets the bar for a high-energy set.
An uptempo take on Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” follows, highlighted by an explorative Carrothers solo that fluidly unfolds over four and half-plus minutes.
One of two Mallinger originals, the title track glides atop George Fludas’ elegant brush- work, while the four carry the spirit of late- era Coltrane while playing his “Living Space.” The deep loveliness of “Snowbound” confirms Mallingers’ strength as both a composer and a ballad player, with Carrothers’ quiet quoting of “White Christmas” perfectly punctuating it at the end.
With the tracks from nine to just under 14 minutes, the group stretches out on each of the half-dozen numbers—a well-balanced live program that translates nicely as a recorded document. —Yoshi Kato/Downbeat
St Paul native, Chicago-based saxophonist Pat Mallinger already has a handful of acclaimed recordings to his credit, both as leader of small ensembles and co-leader of Sabertooth, the resident organ band at Chicago’s Green Mill. But his new Home on Richmond (Pat’s Chicago address) boasts a special ingredient in addition to Mallinger’s very fine horn playing and the exemplary support team of bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer George Fludas—the addition of internationally acclaimed pianist Bill Carrothers. The result is an accessible, creative, always satisfying journey, recorded live at the Green Mill.
Although Home on Richmond is the first recording pairing Mallinger and Carrothers, the two have been making music together over the years since meeting as Twin Cities’ high school students in the McDonald’s All Star High School Jazz Ensemble. While Pat has been building his reputation stateside, Bill has attained a far greater following in Europe as both performing and recording artist, garnering the 2000 French Diapason d'Or de l'Année, the 2004 Grand Prix de l'Academie Charles Cros, and numerous Top 10 of the Year lists in France. Yet he still calls the Midwest home, and regularly appears at the Green Mill in Chicago and Artists Quarter and Dakota in the Twin Cities.
Tuesday, 22 November 2011
The recording shows off live music to full advantage, particularly adventurous post bop where the musicians have a chance to establish a foundation from which to build individual and collaborative structures through inventive soloing and sympathetic collaboration; the six tracks here stretch from 9 to nearly 14 minutes each without ever getting bogged down in excessive introspection. While the music is by no means predictable, the listener is never left wondering where it’s all going. It makes sense; it feels complete; and it’s constantly engaging. And it’s a treat to hear Mallinger on three horns (tenor, alto and soprano). Two compositions come from the band—Mallinger’s title track and Carrothers’ “Snowbound,” while interpretations of Charles Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin, John Coltrane and Harry Warren fill out the disc.
The set opens with Charles Lloyd’s “Third Floor Richard,” Mallinger’s tenor introducing the wandering melody. Carroll and Fludas provide a swing undertow, while Carrothers adds obtuse jabs and phrases. Hints of Parker as well as Coltrane abound as Mallinger circles around the theme with alterations in mood and tempo with each orbit. Carrothers’ first solo of the night is filled with thick, dissonant harmonies and Monkish rhythms, all tied together with oddly melodic knots; Fludas signals his intent to keep the pulse crackling. That crackling percussion carries into his nearly one-minute solo intro to Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” and Pat (on alto) gives the first chorus a familiar, slightly edgy whirl. Bill’s solo, buoyed by some tasty basslines from Carroll, initially suggests a big band dance, but quickly devolves into a trademark Carrothers abstraction where whiffs of melody rise occasionally above the surface playground. Bass and drums admirably keep pace with the pianist’s ever-shifting soundscape, always managing to swing. Mallinger sits out a good five minutes, leaving the piano trio space to explore, before returning with his own Parker-laced spin. Like a good talkie, you only need one sensory input to get the story and feel the sympathetic exchanges. Pat’s fluttering cadenza floats down like a twisting playbill in the breeze.
The leader’s title track is a light-hearted, midtempo, waltzing tune, Pat’s homage to home and family. Bill takes a single note and weaves it into sparkling fabric like a 21st century Bill Evans offspring, while Pat returns with one of the most gorgeous interludes of the set. It’s homey but not complacent, sporting another finale of graceful invention. John Coltrane’s too-rarely heard “Living Space” (from his Tyner/Garrison/Jones era) begins as an incantation of soprano sax and drums. While Coltrane recorded it on soprano with tenor overdubs, Mallinger makes it work in his own way, doing justice to original, giving the single horn its own “living space” to breathe, expand and contract. Carrothers delivers a Tyner-worthy solo in power and density, but it’s definitely his own interpretation. With Fludas’ drumroll, Pat comes back to the opening prayer.
“Snowbound” is Bill Carrothers’ hymn, suggesting an improvisation over “I’ll Be Around.” After three minutes of piano trio glory, Mallinger enters on tenor, regal basslines and subtle percussion putting the focus on piano and sax. Bill and Pat build the level of abstraction until they return to the initial theme. If you are snowbound, you’d be reassured by the tranquility of this music. The Tin Pan Alley hit “Nagasaki” (Dixon/Warren) provides a boppish closing with Pat on alto. Carrothers cuts loose. Ripping through the tune with characteristic hesitations, layers of chords alternating with sinewy single lines. Fludas trades breaks with Pat and Bill but ultimately it’s Pat who dazzles in a sprint to the finish.
It’s 70 minutes of searing teamwork and artful soloing, an often-explosive exhibition of instrumental versatility from one of the finest saxophonists in modern postbop, one of the most inventive pianists on today’s scene (on either side of the Atlantic), and Chicago’s best pulse-setting duo. And that adds up to one exhilarating quartet, Mallinger’s best ensemble recording to date.
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor
All About Jazz December 23, 2011
"PMQ blowing out in high gear on an outstanding night of live music."
January 11, 2012
A new disc from the quartet led by saxist Pat Mallinger gives listeners a chance to hear Mallinger and his guest star, pianist Bill Carrothers. And that statement may be all you need to order.
I consider Carrothers to be the most individualistic pianist in jazz today; it’s why I selected his trio album, A Night At The Village Vanguard, as my favorite of 2011. But if anything, his work on Mallinger’s self-released Home On Richmond may have an even more devastating effect.
Recorded at the Green Mill last March, the album captures the equivalent of a set and a half – nearly 70 minutes spread among only six tunes. That’s a typical night at the Mill, and it allows plenty of time to stretch out, of course. But in the pressure-cooker of a quartet, where he shares featured space with Mallinger’s tenor, Carrothers compresses his solos (as compared to his trio recordings). The result? A deliciously paradoxical mix of heightened abandon and laser focus.
Each of these piano solos contains a half-dozen brilliant set pieces set within a compelling whole – each a full-length play comprising so many memorable scenes. No doubt, the crackling support of bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer George Fludas has much to do with the inspired nature of Carrothers’ performance. Their combined swing extends wide as well as deep, and I can only imagine what a joy they provide to a soloist as gifted as Carrothers – a small enough group in any case.
Mallinger also benefits mightily from this turbo-thrust backing. With Carroll and Fludas pushing hard, “Smile” produces one of Mallinger’s best recorded solos on tenor, a foundational structure for his entire approach – vertiginous, swooping contours played out with meat-and-potatoes swing, and a husky, ardent tenor tone. “Nagasaki” allows him to romp on alto while nodding to Swing-Era roots; but on “Living Space,” he distills his debt to John Coltrane, with a soprano statement that whirls and shrieks like a kite on the wing.
I was in the audience for this recording, and listening to Home On Richmond, it gratifies me to realize that the music remains every bit as animated as I recall. For that, the Mill’s ace sound man Chris Grabowski deserves a fair share of the credit; “live” recordings rarely capture the essence of the evening as well as this one. Take this disc home with you and, you might not know you’d ever left the club.
By: Neil Tesser
Chicago Jazz Magazine
"This live date is interactive, swinging and, most of all, a lot of fun. For those who are interested in a spirited hard bop record, this album is highly recommended." - Dan Healy