review MUSIC BY JB FLOYD - IN CROSSING THE BUSY STREET
(Mutable 17535-2) (UPC: 801021753520)

JB Floyd, piano; Thomas Buckner, baritone; George Marsh, drums

This new recording of music by JB Floyd highlights the three main strands of his career: pianist, composer, improvisor. He composed In Crossing the Busy Street for baritone Thomas Buckner (a frequent collaborator of his) and piano, using a poem by Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore. The musical material from this twenty-two minute song cycle then became the basis for further exploration as material for improvisations. Floyd then worked with drummer George Marsh (another long-time collaborator) on what became Improvisations on In Crossing the Busy Street.

J.B. Floyd's career as pianist, composer, and improviser has included classical recitals and solos with orchestra, new music solos and group collaborations, jazz improvisations, and multi-media presentations.

For more than 30 years, baritone Thomas Buckner has dedicated himself to the world of new and improvised music. As a performer, producer, and promoter, Buckner has enabled the creation of an extensive body of new works by some of the world¹s leading, most exciting and most challenging composers. Currently, Buckner works regularly with composers Robert Ashley, Roscoe Mitchell, Alvin Lucier, Annea Lockwood, Bun-Ching Lam, Jerome Cooper, David Wessel, Tom Hamilton, Leroy Jenkins, Phill Niblock, Wadada Leo Smith, among others.

George Marsh became a professional drummer in Belleville, Illinois at the age of fifteen. Although primarily self taught, he studied percussion with Tom Siwe and Jack McKenzie at Champagne-Urbana and later played with the Lyric Opera, and many great Chicago jazz musicians. Since 1968 he has lived in the San Francisco area where he has performed and recorded with musicians such as John Abercrombie, Mose Allison, Joe Henderson, David Grisman, Terry Riley, Denny Zeitlin, Pauline Oliveros, Allaudin Mathieu, and many others.

Other related material on Mutable Music: J. B. Floyd ­ Transporting Transmittance (Mutable 17512-2)
JB Floyd/David Rosenboom/Trichy Sankaran ­ Suitable for Framing (Mutable 17517-2)
George Marsh & W.A. Mathieu ­ Game/No Game (Mutable 17518-2)
Thomas Buckner/Mel Graves/George Marsh ­ Homage (Mutable 17522-2)


Reviews

This CD by composer/pianist JB Floyd is twofold. First, a cycle of eight songs, 22 minutes, performed by baritone Tom Buckner and Floyd at the piano, based on poems by Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore. Elegant, beautiful, rapturing, and imbued with that slightly austere grace I have come to associate with Buckner. Then follows a string of improvisations around the musical themes of the suite, 38 minutes in all, featuring Floyd and drummer George Marsh. Gone is the “lieder” feel of the first part, replaced by a slightly amorphous, complacent form of jazz. Had Buckner participated to that part (he’s a talented improviser), it may have been less bland and predictable. - Monsieur Delire's Listening Diary


JB Floyd, Thomas Buckner, George Marsh: IN CROSSING THE BUSY STREET - Looking back through my archive, I (just now) realize that I've been reviewing works by Thomas Buckner for a long, long time... this is our first listen to the excellence of pianist/composer/improvisor JB Floyd, but (as noted), Buckner's deep and rich baritone has been 'round these pages for quite some many years, and his impact is no less strong in this (sort of) trio (George Marsh plays crisp & crystal-clear drums); the entire work is based on a poem by Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore, so although the piano and drums are there in support of the effort (in a big way), the story is told by Thomas's strong spoken-word and song. This is clearly not "be-bop", "funk" or "smooth" jazz, but it is surely sonic art and will make you taste every moment of the tale. Some of you may be aware that I first started out with spoken-word performances... nowhere near the high-talent scale displayed here, but (in my mind) it's not a "competitive sport" anyway... this kind of magic is done to tell the story, and the trio works wonderfully together to wrap you into their spell. A very interesting excursion that your ears (and your spirit) deserve. I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for any and all who want "more" than "just average" in their listening experience. It gets an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.94. - Rotcod Zzaj, Improvijazzation Nation


Floyd defines himself as “pianist, composer, improviser”, this album ideally representing a showcase of all three characters fused into a sole entity. In Crossing The Busy Street is practically conceived like two mini LPs in a single CD, the first with baritone Thomas Buckner, the second with drummer George Marsh. The basic materials are the pieces with the former, duos for piano and voice whose lyrical content derives from a poem by Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore. This is the place where I personally prefer to stay, the singer’s unique delivery characterizing the ravishing chord inversions spelled by Floyd’s hands over the course of eight mainly magnificent tracks. The music’s temperament is at the same time tenderly melancholic and intellectually bright, each part characterized by a peculiar solution which inserts an element of slight discordance – still extremely digestible – in an otherwise completely fluid harmonic itinerary. There are repeated moments of poignancy here, and the overall feel is one of total gratification at the end. The duets with Marsh, which originate from improvisations and variations on some of the existing chapters, are certainly gifted with style and poise, yet they lack a bit of the emotional intensity of the exchanges with Buckner. Piano and drums gel quite well, but the jazzier vibe appearing every once in a while renders the whole a little more “normal” to these ears, deprived of the enchantment that the sung verses had generated. However, this remains a fascinating document of refined musicianship. But if there’s a reason behind the necessity of owning this disc, it surely resides in the original material. - Massimo Ricci, Temporary Fault


Here's the perfect example of how creativity can be ageless, transcending musical genres and not necessarily using an obscure and experimental language.

The three aging leading performers have a record of sharing some performances in the past.

JB Floyd, the pianist, is the focal point of two different entities: in the first 8 short pieces, recorded live at the University of Miami, he plays with singer Tom Buckner, while he is accompanied by drummer George Marsh in the remaining six pieces, recorded in studio.
In the live recorded performance Buckner's baritone voice, that comes out slightly inebriated and loose, sings poems by Daniel Abdal-Havy More.

Floyd's piano gives him a firm support, dry and elegant, at times vaguely twisted, that might recall Ran Blake.
The result of such collaboration could be defined as some sort of new, austere lied or a profane, static and not so resonant spiritual.
It would not have been inappropriate to print the lyrics of the poems in Buckner's cover jacket.

In their joint performance the pianist and the drummer play ad lib Floyd's themes that are in the first part of the CD. The language becomes more free and eloquent, with a more distinctive jazz sound and expanded duration of the pieces .

While the pianist extends his dynamic and harmonious skills and shows an impressive variety of touch, Marsh strikes the drums with a halting rhythm and enigmatic sound, following a pattern that alternates between smooth and compact .

Their dialog shapes ecstatic visions and material configurations, reiterations and reassessments, all very convincing. In the end, In Crossing the Busy Street may not be the ultimate CD, but undoubtedly it is a self-produced outstanding and courageous piece of work that does not follow any commercial trend or the most advanced directions. And yet it possesses an intimate, antiheroic but proud expressive honesty.
- Luigi Santosuosso & Claudio Casanova, All About Jazz Italia