Some mid-winter jazz

Steve Grover heats up again, Between Now and After
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  January 16, 2008

Between Now and After | Released by the Steve Grover Quintet

Origin Story | Released by the Richard Nelson Quintet
In the cyclical, here-and-gone-again jazz world of Maine, it seems that maybe things are on-again. Judging by Steve Grover’s work-load for January, it might be that he’s single-handedly trying to make up for the loss of Invisible Records. Whether on piano or drums — solo, leading a group or filling a chair — Grover will finish up January with 10 more gigs on his long and winding résumé, which now must include being the face of jazz in Maine, with former go-to guy and Invisible honcho Mark Kleinhaut living by the burning river in Ohio. Grover has another 10 scheduled for February, too, though it remains to be seen whether this flurry is just the result of him being on break from teaching the kids all about jazz, pop, and the rest of the various musical canons up at UMaine-Augusta.

It also remains to be seen whether the new spate of weekly jazz nights will continue. The return of music to One Longfellow Square was welcome enough before they took the bold step of adding Tuesday night jazz (whether anything can be successful on a Tuesday night during a Portland winter is debatable, of course), thereby returning jazz to a major Portland venue on a regular basis for the first time in years. Grover will play there backing David Wells as part of the Garden Above Trio on February 5, but he’s part of another newish jazz night at Zachary’s at the Holiday Inn Portland-West, as well, sitting behind the kit as part of the Rick Marsters/Willie Johnson Quintet every Wednesday, from 7 to 10 pm.

Perhaps Grover is simply re-energized by the release of his newest collection of compositions, Between Now and After, which dropped last summer, but has made its way into the public consciousness with a slow burn. It’s his fifth full-length as a bandleader/composer, his first since 2003’s Breath, and it continues his record of releasing supremely listenable and musically engaging collections of original work.

This time, he’s assembled a quintet, with Tim Sessions on trombone the voice you probably haven’t heard before. Well, unless you’re a little bit old-school — Sessions’s tenure in Maine lasted from 1981 through 1990 before he left for New York City, where he now finds himself as part of the orchestra accompanying The Producers on Broadway. His work with Wells, on tenor sax, really drives the new release. Yes, both solo with the best of them throughout the disc, but it’s when they explore Grover’s frameworks in tandem that you get a real treat.

They seem to be the protagonists of “The Poets Agree,” where often when the two horns are playing together they’re split between the two channels so you can focus your attention appropriately. After initial introductory phrasings, like MCs trading warm-up riffs before a battle, they truly engage, sometimes mimicking, sometimes in call-and-response, sometimes seeming to have no knowledge of the other. There’s a lot to follow here in general, but don’t miss the drum break at about 3:00, snare and cymbal heavy, with some toms coming in as Grover works up a head of steam, finally going almost all cymbal before the rest of the band returns.

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Related: Steve Grover makes a Statement, Buffalo’d Bard, Home fires, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Dick Cheney, David Wells, Richard Nelson,  More more >
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