Steve Grossman – with Michel Petrucciani

Steve Grossman
with Michel Petrucciani
(Dreyfus Jazz – 1998)
by Ricky Miller

Steve Grossman’s new release Quartet features the late Michel Petrucciani in what stands, sadly, as the brilliant pianist’s last completed recording project. Co-produced by Petrucciani, Quartet serves as a reaffirmation of Grossman’s talents, while also paying homage to the spirit and career of a truly masterful musician and composer.

Having moved to Europe over 10 years ago, the former Miles Davis sidedeman is heard from infrequently, so it’s nice to get a release like Quartet, arguably his most soulful and lyrical album to date. On it, Grossman focuses on the tenor saxophone, with Petrucciani bassist Andy McKee and drummer Joe Farnsworth providing complementary support on the disc’s 10 selections. Listeners will be pleasantly surprised by the exceptionally rich, ballad-centric program of Quartet, which shows the saxophonist harkening back to his first saxophone heroes, Jackie McLean and Sonny Rollins.

Quartet opens with Grossman spotlighted on “Ebb Tide” followed by a swing through McKee’s modern blues, “Inner Circle”. Here, Petrucciani delivers a rollicking solo over energetic rhythm backing. “Song For My Mother,” penned by the leader, is simultaneously respectful and a bit of a push towards the frontiers of improvisational whimsy. This to Rollins is given further validation in similarly idealized cuts like “You Go to My Head,” and the Saxophone Colossus’ own uptempo gem, “Why Don’t I?”.

Michel Petrucciani’s final composition, “Parisian Welcome”, was written especially for this session and is full of Gallic flavor, which the saxophonist readily and humorously plays off of. Throughout Quartet the real joy is in the interplay between Grossman’s warm tenor and Petrucciani’s empathetic touch, as evidenced here on “Body & Soul” and the classic “Don’t Blame Me.”