Larry Bluth (p), Don Messina (b), Bill Chattin (d)
Reference: FSRCD 5068
Bar code: 8427328650687
[...] Four tracks were recorded at a small concert hall in Teaneck, New Jersey (three tunes prior to the concert and one during the performance). The other five selections were recorded at Sette MoMA, a club within the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The Teaneck hall had this wonderful Baldwin grand piano that we dug. A favorite of mine from this date is "Klactoveedsedstene," (Bird’s new melody on Perdido). Larry plays Parker's improvised bridge beautifully: I think he captured Bird’s feeling accurately and soulfully. "Larry’s Line" is a Bluth original that used material he was working on with Mosca, it's over the structure of Cole Porter's "I Love You." The line is stunning. It's the only time we recorded it. On the Sette MoMa gig, we were booked for two nights, four sets a night. I still remember how much I really enjoyed playing "Sippin' at Bell's," and how nervous I was trying to play that line with Larry. "Riverdale" is a group improvisation on the form of "You'd Be So Nice to Come To." It's a tune that our trio played often and the minor key was something that Larry was able to stretched out on. With Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays," Larry changed the harmony of first four bars and this small change really opened it up for us. On "Sound-Lee" I dig how Larry waited many choruses before playing Lee Konitz's line leading into the bass solo.
—Don Messina, taken from the inside liner notes
"Another piece of Tristanoism emerges. This time in the form of Larry Bluth, a pianist and a Tristanoite by proxy of having studied with Lennie Tristano's most well-known piano student Sal Mosca.
Hopefully, the release of this album and the Mosca album reviewed a couple of days back may lead to a renewed interest in Tristano and his followers of whom I'm rapidly becoming one.
Listening to this superb trio album (bassist Messina is another member of the T Club and drummer Chattin is also a card-carrying member) makes me realise how important Lennie was in the evolution of modern jazz and how proud he would have been to know that his legacy had been carried on so well by Mosca and Bluth. All three are now gone but, hopefully there are pianists out there carrying on the tradition.
Getting back to the matter in hand. If you liked Lennie, you'll like this, if you liked Sal, you'll like this, if you like modern jazz when jazz was modern, you'll LOVE this."
—Lance Hudson Music (March 22, 2023)
"Bebop Spoken Here" UK jazz blog
"Bassist Don Messina is proving to be an archivist of some stature. Along with a treasure-trove of Sal Mosca home recordings. Fresh Sound has released this superb set of live and soundcheck tracks by the Larry Bluth Trio, whose work was sadly concluded by the pianist's 2020 passing (he would have turned 82 this month). They made three albums in the '90s and now we add an extra/welcome 25 percent to its discography.
It is no easy task to describe what sets Bluth apart from so many pianists. Part of that challenge stems from the still pervasive and lamented unfamiliarity with what could be called his lineage, if that is even a proper way to hear what Bluth does. To trace his work to that of Mosca and then to Lennie Tristano is also to reconsider the innovations in '40s improvised music. While Tristano and Co. certainly do owe an allegiance to that chromatically complex music known as bebop and to the innovations of Art Tatum preceding it, they approach tunes from harmonic and melodic freedoms of a different and often contrapuntal variety. You won't hear Parker's now-ubiquitous licks and chromatically inflected resolutions here. Bluth's harmonic ambiguities accent and emphasize pitches in completely unexpected places and patterns. Just check out "Larry's Line" to hear the difference. Conceivably, the arpeggiated melody had its genesis in the "impressionist" intro to the 1944 Jo Stafford recording of Cole Porter's "I Love You", providing the changes on which "Larry's Line" is based, but talk about turning a moment into a fantasy! Bluth's invention is as stunning as his pianism is understated, or perhaps simply stated.
Each note of the quietly blistering melody emerges with exquisite clarity, each somehow integral to the whole. To suggest that bassist Don Messina and drummer Bill Chattin provide support is both true and woefully lacking. Like Bluth, they swing through each rapid-fire change and complex inflection with the consummate ease of familiarity, with one another and with the converging musical traditions they represent. You can hear the symbiosis as Bluth and Messina's melodic interplay unifies at 2:07 and in Chattin's perfectly timed micro-roll at 2:28
All the innovation and intrigue is so natural that it just glides by. Dig the scintillating staticity of "These Foolish Things" that never quite impedes its flow, or the languid but never lethargic treatment of "Sweet and Lovely" as those delightfully crunchy harmonies go by over Bluth and Messina's contrapuntal interweavings. The harmonically altered opening to "Yesterdays", a radical instant of deconstruction, is navigated with the finesse of veterans playing together for some two decades. Nothing sums up all this trio could bring to a tune better than "Sound-Lee". Bluth pushes and pulls its linear implications ever so slightly, long before the line is even stated, leading ultimately and beautifully into Messina's best solo on the disc, a model of mohvic development in improvisational flux.
Chattin's snare and cymbal interplay is as deliciously sparse as his slight dynamic increase coming out of Messina's solo is expertly judged. Read Messina's liner notes where he accomplishes the rare feat of combining personal reminiscence with relevant musical commentary, providing the capper to a wonderful package befitting the work of this underappreciated group."
—Marc Medwin (November, 2022)
The New York City Jazz Record
"Pianist Larry Bluth, who died in 2020, studied with Lennie Tristano student Sal Mosca for some years. He didn't receive the recognition he deserved, and his recorded output, till now, was just three albums for the Zinnia label in the 1990s, with bassist Don Messina and drummer Bill Chattin. But he was a real musician's musician, and a passionate educator. This posthumous release, with the same personnel as the Zinnia albums, shows his very considerable talent and originality. When I correspond by email with Don Messina and describe the pianist as "a leading member of the Lennie Tristano school", he aptly replies: "I’m not sure if he thought of himself as that...but if that means being influenced by Prez, Bird, Bud, Fats Navarro, Warne, and Charlie Christian as well as Lennie and Sal Mosca – then maybe he was".
The album features live performances by the Larry Bluth Trio from 1996 and 2001. Jordi Pujol at Fresh Sound Records releases them along with the wonderful Sal Mosca for Lennie Tristano: Solo Piano, 1970 and 1997.The programme consists of standards and originals, and there's a vivid sense of spontaneity. As Messina writes in his eloquent liner notes, Larry Bluth's approach to jazz "was all about listening to each other, and playing with a feeling that was intense, yet light and swinging." This is a totally persuasive description, evident from the opening track, Charlie Parker's Klactoveedsedstene. This is listed on Wikipedia as a contrafact on Perdido (A section) and Lady Be Good (B section). But Messina tells me that they play just the changes of Perdido – "Maybe Larry’s changes are different?"
There's a plangent ballad, A Ghost of a Chance, and an ingenious mid-tempo Yesterdays. Riverdale is – I assume – a spontaneous improvisation by the trio, and Larry's Line is by Bluth. The album ends with a version of Lee Konitz's Sound-Lee that plunges increasingly into far-out territory while remaining tonal and groove-based. Bluth has clear affinities with the Tristano soundworld, but he's an intriguing stylist, his solos full of unexpected turns and angular reminiscences. Never More Here is a superb release and an excellent memorial to a fine musician."
—Andy Hamilton (August, 2022)
"Many musicians work diligently to build a career for themselves. Although dedicated to music, these players also try to build a fanbase, book concerts, and score record deals. However, there are an equal number of performers who are driven more by creating music than making it in the music business. Unfortunately, many artists who fall into this second category often fail to get the recognition they deserve. Pianist Larry Bluth could easily fit into this category of talented musicians that more jazz fans need to hear.
Bluth was a dedicated pianist and educator with a true passion for jazz. He studied with Sal Mosca for years and was influenced by Lennie Tristano. Bluth died in 2020 and, although he recorded some well-received albums, he never attained a great deal of mainstream success. However, his longtime friend and band mate, bassist Don Messina compiled and produced Never More Here, a collection of impressive live performances from The Larry Bluth Trio, recorded in 1996 and 2001.
Never More Here features Bluth with Messina on bass and Bill Chattin on drums. Many of the selections are jazz standards, but there are some original compositions as well. While Messina and Chattin are without question excellent musicians, what really sets these recordings apart is Bluth's masterful piano style.
Since these are live performances, Bluth is in his element here. There is a sense of spontaneity present throughout the record. However, he is not just playing while the band follows along. Taking a cue from Tristano, Bluth is clearly intent on listening to the other players. As Messina describes in the liner notes, Bluth "was all about listening to each other, and playing with a feeling that was intense, yet light and swinging."
This spontaneity is evident from the opening track, Charlie Parker's "Klactoveedsedstene." Bluth is clearly paying close attention to the other players, easing back at times to give them a chance to stretch out. The piano here, though, is on point. As Messina explains, "I think he captured Bird's feeling accurately and soulfully."
Bluth's sensitivity and awareness as a player bring a sense of fullness and vitality to this recording. When the group is playing standards such as "These Foolish Things" or "Yesterdays," his playing is straight ahead and melodic. Some of the songs, however, such as "Larry's Line," lend themselves to a little stylistic playfulness where Thelonious Monk's influence comes into the mix.
Never More Here is cool jazz at its best, and Bluth's chemistry with Messina and Chattin is satisfying on every level. This is an excellent album which also serves as a fitting tribute to this exceptional musician."
—Kyle Simpler (July 3, 2022)
All About Jazz
"Larry Bluth (1940-2020) was a pianist and educator influenced and inspired by Lennie Tristano and Sal Mosca but a soloist with his own sound. He enjoyed improvising over common chord changes and creating new melodic lines while engaging in close interaction with his sidemen. Bluth made relatively few recordings, just three albums for the Zinnia label in the 1990s with bassist Don Messina and drummer Bill Chattin. This new set from Fresh Sound Records features the same musicians.
'Never More Here' consists of previously unreleased performances from 2001 and 1996. Bluth, Messina, and Chattin perform pieces by Charlie Parker (“Klactoveedsedstene” and “Sippin’ At Bell’s”), a pair of originals based on other songs (“Riverdale” and “Larry’s Line”), Lee Konitz’s “Sound-Lee,” and four standards: “Sweet And Lovely,” “Ghost Of A Chance,” “Yesterdays” and “These Foolish Things.” The themes are generally discarded after the first chorus as the trio digs in and swings on a continuous flow of ideas. Messina has occasional solos and Chattin gets a few drum breaks but the focus is mostly on the pianist and the interplay of the trio.
Lovers of bebop and the Lennie Tristano legacy will certainly enjoy this CD from the little-known but talented Larry Bluth."
—Scott Yanow (June, 2022)
Los Angeles Jazz Scene
"Back in 2020, bassist and long-time e-pal Don Messina emailed me about a couple of tapes in his possession that hadn't been released. One was by the Larry Bluth Trio from 2001. The other was a collection of solo recordings by Sal Mosca in 1970 and 1997. My ears went up upon hearing about both tapes. What the two had in common was Lennie Tristano.
Bluth was a long-time student of Sal Mosca, a student of Tristano, a blind New York pianist who, in the late 1940s, invented a new approach to jazz improvisation built on motifs, polyrhythms, strict time and chromaticism. All fancy words, but to the naked ear, Tristano's approach sounded like Art Tatum and bebop played backward. All of this led to one of the first so-called free-jazz recordings in 1949 by Tristano and his quintet. Deeply influenced by Tristano's "cool" approach were Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh, Arnold Fishkind, Billy Bauer, Peter Ind, Charles Mingus, Joe Shulman, Jeff Morton, Connie Crothers and many others.
Don, along with drummer Bill Chattin, were members of the Larry Bluth Trio, a terrific group I last posted about here in 2020. Don also is close with Kathy Mosca and the Sal Mosca estate. In 2020, I asked Don to send along the recordings so I could give a listen. When he did, I flipped. The music on both tapes was exceptional and needed to be heard. I asked Don what he planned to do with the tapes. Don said he wanted to put them out but it would be a time-consuming struggle. I proposed an easier way to do just that. Don said he was open, so I alerted Jordi Pujol at Fresh Sound Records in Spain. Jordi gave a listen and he, too, flipped. So I put Don together with Jordi.
Now the glorious music I heard in 2020 is out on two Fresh Sound releases—Never More Here by the Larry Bluth Trio and Sal Mosca for Lennie Tristano: Solo Piano, 1970 and 1997. For those of you unfamiliar with Fresh Sound, Jordi is a jazz hero who has rescued lost and unissued jazz albums and released them on his label. He has single-handedly revived hundreds of albums that never would have been available if not for his passion and determination.
As you'll hear, the Larry Bluth Trio was a terrific, firmly unified group deep into Tristano's fascinating approach. The tracks are Charlie Parker's Klactoveedsedstene; Miles Davis's Sippin' at Bells; the standards Sweet and Lovely, A Ghost of a Chance, Yesterdays and These Foolish Things; the Bluth Trio's Riverdale, Bluth's Larry's Line and Lee Konitz's Sound-Lee.
Bluth's piano is absolutely gorgeous, adding flecks of Thelonious Monk to his Tristano attack. Don's bass unleashes ribbons of counterpoint to Bluth's piano while Chattin's drums toss in patterns as if throwing dice. The conversational quality of these three musicians playing together is breathtaking.
As for the Sal Mosca album, let me have Don tell it from his liner notes:
During my seven-year archival project transferring all of Sal's personal recordings to the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University, I uncovered this reel-to-reel audio tape in Sal's Mt. Vernon, N.Y. studio, tucked away in a drawer in his corner desk separate from all of his other tapes. It was tied closed with string from top to bottom as well as from side to side. On the back of the cardboard box, written in Sal's exquisite penmanship, were the words, "Solo Tape for Lennie Tristano, February 2, 1970." I was so excited that this tape (if it was still playable) would have some really great early Sal Mosca piano playing. I had to wait a few weeks until I was able to locate a high-end tape player before I could listen.
The tape, Don said, was a gift from student to teacher and labeled by Tristano in braille. How the tape managed to make it back to Mosca is unknown. Most likely, it was returned to him after Tristano's passing. The key question Don had to ask himself was whether the material on the tape was important enough to release or was it just more of the same. Everyone he asked told him that the tape's solo work advanced our impression of Mosca, especially given that the playing on most of the tape was recorded exclusively for Tristano to hear. What Tristano's reaction was is unknown. Don knew the works were recorded five years before Mosca's first solo album, which made the tape worthy as his earliest singular effort. The fact that the music was glorious meant he had to find a way to release it. Enter Jordi.
Now you can hear what I heard that day in 2020. The liner notes to both albums are by Don, and his Mosca musings include a superb interview he conducted with saxophonist Jimmy Halperin, a student of both Tristano and Mosca. I'm sure you'll feel as I did and do that the music on both CDs is exceptional. I, for one, am grateful it's out for the world to enjoy. Hats off to Don, Kathy Mosca and Jordi.
Lennie Tristano died in 1978, Sal Mosca died in 2007 and Larry Bluth died in 2020."
—Marc Myers (April 19, 2022)