some time now, I have been looking forward to hearing the tapes
of the CD you now hold in your hands. The three musicians on this
recording, friends of mine, were all enthusiastic about the results.
I know them to be perceptive self-critical musicians, so their enthusiasm
made me more than curious. March Blues is a gem of a recording.
With its subtle complexities of angles and colors intrinsically
integrated into the compositional whole, it shines with a deeply
satisfying and lasting brilliance. Pianist and composer Larry Porter
- bassist Thomas Stabenow - and drummer Rick Hollander - are all
major players on the German-European jazz scene. They have worked
together in a variety of contexts over the last several years, developing
the familiarity and intuitive empathy necessary within the intimacy
of a piano trio.
After the first few listenings to this recording, and upon imagining
how I would approach the writing, I found myself continually coming
up with superlatives for the playing on every piece. I felt the
comments would become redundant. So, a few general observations
about the players on this recording seem appropriate here. Rick
Hollander has an off-the-wall logic to his playing which continually
surprises me. What sounds straight-ahead turns out to be interlaced
with delightful curves and angles. And it all fits and fills out
the parts. Thomas Stabenow is the consummate accompanist. The intimacy
of the trio format allows him the solo space normally given a horn
player. He responds with depth, sensitivity, and clarity. Steeped
in the traditions of Jazz, and other musics, Larry Porter's playing
has developed into an expressive and richly creative personal style.
For me, Porter has a poetic quality to his writing and playing in
which I can envision stories in sound. With his ballads, I can often
conceive of lyrics breathing inside the melodies.
The CD might also be titled Blues and Ballads; four of the
ten compositions are blues, and four are ballads. Eight of the ten
are originals written by Larry Porter.
March Blues is one of a series of twelve blues that Larry
wrote. They are studies in bi-tonality, each written in a different
key, representing a particular month of the year. The name instantly
struck me as a play of words on Benny Golson's Blues March.
The feeling here is more like an early Spring stroll, however. The
playing here is tight and beautifully controlled, the three walking
leisurely together, and enjoying each-other's company along the
The second of Porter's compositions, So Near Yet So Far Away,
begins with a somber, haunting, Scriabin-like solo piano introduction
leading into the trio's rendition of a theme tinged with melancholy.
There are moments during this piece where I lose the sense of there
being accompanist and soloist. Instead, there is the feeling of
the three soloing together. One of the pleasures of this recording
is this constant commingling of roles. The compositional quality
of Porter - Stabenow - Hollander's improvisational playing, their
ability to fill out the parts with the "right" textures and dynamics
gives the music a sense of inevitability.
The medium tempo Sky Blues is aptly named. It starts firmly
and funkily rooted in the earth, and then soars skyward on altered
changes. The feeling of the group shifts between funky and suspended.
Waltz For Mabel (pronounced ma belle) was written for a
certain Spanish lady during Porter's two year sojourn in Spain.
It is a bright medium-tempo jazz waltz in the finest tradition of
Eadie Is A Lady is dedicated to Larry's mother. As a musical
portrait, the upbeat and bluesy first section encompasses the lively,
vivacious side of her personality. In the ballad-tempo second section
the mood is more contemplative, touching more on the softer emotive,
Menuet is a piece transcribed from J. S. Bach's English
Suite #4 for keyboard. Arranged by Porter for the trio, it starts
off much in the tradition of the original composition, in a stately
3/4, and then is transformed into a lively samba in 3/4. After solos
by Larry and Thomas, the composition returns to the original theme
Frank Loesser's Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year is
the only standard on the album. Larry was attracted to the song
after hearing Abbey Lincoln sing it at a live concert in Munich.
Porter commented, "She made the song sound as if it were written
yesterday. She expressed so much just in the way she would sing
a single note. It's such a feat to sing it so magically. It's the
unexplainable that captivates you." In the trio's version, the composition
is pared down to the essentials and played with poignant simplicity.
October Blues is another bi-tonal blues (see comments on
March Blues). It is played with a straight-ahead feeling, slightly
unsettled by an autumnal sense of wistfulness.
The title The River Flows, But Does Not Wash Away The Moon
comes from a Chinese calligraphy sent to Larry by a long-lost close
friend from Porter's college days. The title suits the composition's
impressionistic brush strokes and the particular blend of hues and
colors of the trio's playing.
Homer Blues is the name the street Larry Porter lived on
in Munich. With its feel of ragtime and stride, this fifteen(?!)
bar blues is an unabashed digging into jazz roots without becoming
entangled in them. The same might be said of the entire CD. It's
a beautiful set of creative music grounded in a tradition that allows
for, and often insists upon, personal growth and flowering. Here
for your listening pleasure is quite a unique garden of delights.
Marty Cook, Munich, January, l995
1. March Blues 6:36   2. So Near Yet So Far Away 10:05   3. Sky Blues 5:06 4. Waltz For Mabel 6:28 5. Eadie Is A Lady 6:27 6. Menuet (J. S. Bach, arr. by L. Porter) 7:15   7. Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year (Frank Loesser) 7:50 8. October Blues 5:16   9. The River Flows But Does Not Wash Away The Moon 6:30 10. Homer Blues 5:23
All compositions by Larry Porter except tracks 6 + 7
Bassist Thomas Stabenow's playing credentials are impressive,
having played and recorded with many of the major players of the
American and European jazz scene. They include Johnny Griffin, Charlie
Rouse, Clifford Jordan, Lee Konitz, Ack Van Rooyen, Billy Cobham,
Sal Nistico, Tom Harrell, Albert Mangelsdorff, Wolfgang Dauner,
and Klaus Doldinger. Stabenow has established his own record label,
Bassic Sound, and produced the First German Realbook.
Thomas Stabenow lives in Munich, Germany.
Drummer Rick Hollander started playing drums at the age
of nine. He lived and played in New York City from 1979 through
1987. Rick moved to Europe in 1988, and currently lives in Munich.
He has played with Woody Shaw, Arnette Cobb, Roy Hargrove, Steve
Houben, Bob Mover, Rufus Reid, and Robin Eubanks. His own group
has recorded five albums, the last two, including the soon to be
released Once Upon a Time, for the Concord jazz label.
Larry Porter was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He began piano
lessons at the age of six. He moved to Boston in 1971, where he
and vibraphonist Tom van der Geld formed the group Children at
Play. Porter moved to Munich, Germany in 1973. During this next
period, he worked with Mel Lewis, Sal Nistico, Kai Winding, along
with various groups in the local and European jazz scene. Porter
spent 1976 in Afghanistan and India studying the respective music
cultures. In 1977, Larry moved to New York City where he worked
as pianist in the jazz scene, and as sarod and rabab player in the
Indian music scene. He also worked with dancer Merce Cunningham.
Larry returned to Munich in 1980, where, along with work with Thad
Jones and Airto Moreira, he again found himself working in the local
scene. In 1981 he formed a group with LA expatriate alto saxophonist
Allan Praskin. Porter moved to Spain in 1983, where, with Praskin,
he recorded his first album as co-leader. He moved back to Munich
in 1985, where he recorded his second album as co-leader. During
this period, he worked with Hannibal Marvin Peterson, Don Menza,
Al Cohn, Benny Bailey, Art Farmer, and Leo Wright. Porter worked
with Chet Baker's group from 1986 through 1988, and worked with
Archie Shepp in 1991 and 1992. Larry Porter's first album on enja,
Porter-Praskin Quartet with Sal Nistico, Sonnet for Sal, was
released in 1994. In June 1994 Larry moved back to Manhattan.
The Cleveland Free Times
Larry Porter Trio March Blues
Cleveland-born pianist Larry Porter, a musical vagabond whoís bounced
around the globe since he left his hometown, leads an intimate and
inventive trio session with bassist Thomas Stabenow and drummer
Rick Hollander, veterans with Porter in the American and European
jazz scenes. Thatís likely what gives the ten original selections
on this album their unique flavor.
Porterís keyboard touch is airy and akin to classical technique.
His dreamy melody lines move along unexpected paths and he phrases
like a singer. He incorporates the fruits of world travels (particularly
Asia, where less is more) that perhaps account for his centeredness
and the simplicity of his statements. Heís lived and worked in Afghanistan,
India, Munich, Spain, and, now, New York, and has collaborated with
top jazz innovators, including Cleveland native Benny Bailey, Chet
Baker, Archie Shepp, and many others.
In his note sent with his CD, 44-year-old Porter writes, "I love
beauty. I donít know if this kind of music can make a ripple in
todayís aggressive times, but there it is." Indeed, Porter creates
poetic passion instead of the forceful dynamics favored by most
New York jazzmen.
Porterís trio is of one mind, their subtleties making this his
most romantic recording to date. Someone should put lyrics to Porterís
pretty originals; heís creatively crafted tunes that could become
-Nancy Ann Lee
CD Reviews ~ JazzTimes, March 1996 Larry Porter Trio - "March Blues"
Enja CD 8092-2 (67:22)
Beneath the airy surface of this piano trio album
lies the work of three highly skilled and creative musicians. Two
are long-time expatriates--pianist Porter (although he recently
moved back to New York) and drummer Rick Hollander have lived in
Germany for several years--while the third member, bassist Thomas
Stabenow is a mainstay of the European jazz community. With the
exception of a jazz reading of a Bach minuet and Frank Loesser's
"Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year," eight of the album's ten
compositions are originals. Of those eight, four are blues that
feature various twists on tonality and form.
Reharmonized from the beginning, the Bach minuet
shifts from a dignified 3/4 feel into a kinetic samba framed by
Hollander's expansive drumming, which is busy and could even be
called melodic, but with each minute detail perfectly placed. "So
Near Yet So Far Away" begins with a fragile, dissonant piano solo
with an almost formal attitude. It eventually evolves into a gorgeous
ballad that subtly recalls the work of Gershwin, Arlen and Carmichael.
Despite the members' tendency towards musical reflection, they can
also swing well, as on "October Blues," where Porter explores bi-tonality
with deft, spacious phrases and a sure but harmonically inquisitive
A delicate balance that is adventuresome yet eminently