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Reclamation by Stephan Crump and Rosetta Trio

Though he is relatively new to the New York jazz scene, Memphis-born bassist Stephan Crump already has an impressively broad-minded musical resumé, having worked with (among others) blue-eyed soul crooner Michael McDonald, ex-Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, singer-songwriter (and wife) Jen Chapin, saxophonist Greg Osby, and Gregg Bendian's Mahavishnu Project. His current primary gig is with the avant-jazz piano genius Vijay Iyer. Crump's own Rosetta Trio with acoustic guitarist Liberty Ellman and electric guitarist Jamie Fox is, in many ways, the nexus of his mind-bogglingly diverse musical interests. Though the signature sound of the trio is unflinchingly intimate and understated, the music itself is so rich in ideas and inspiration that “Reclamation” never recedes into the background. It's the sort of stuff that, if you lose your focus or become distracted, your ears will prick up after a moment and you'll ask yourself “....how did they get here?”

Reclamation” is the trio's second recording, and it is every bit as vital as their first - “Rosetta” - which I considered to be one of the 10 best jazz CDs of 2006. Each of the “Reclamation's” nine tunes contains attractively shimmering melodies and seductively gentle rhythms that veer off into unexpected musical territory. The first track, a tribute to Crump's hometown, starts off as an unassuming jazzy stroll with a palpable Django Reinhardt flair. As Ellman and Fox improvise around the theme, the music gradually opens up in unusual ways, becoming more and chaotic before dissolving completely. 'Shoes Jump' is similarly congenial, and provides a showcase for Crump's own elegant bass playing. The tough 4/4 surf-rock styled rhythm that fuels 'Overreach' threatens to dissolve amidst a contrasting odd-metered theme only to rise again – almost gloriously – as a backing for solos by Ellman and Fox. 'Here Not Here' is much darker, and features a trio improvisation that provides the most abstract musical moments on “Reclamation.” The trio's use of silence here is especially effective. Crump uses the bow masterfully on 'Escalateur,' a lyrical ballad that frames a melody tinged with longing and regret.

The centerpiece of the CD is 'Pernambuco,' a lengthy piece that runs through all of these moods and more. Gently percussive tapping, string wipes, and behind-the-bridge pluckings coalesce behind Crump's arco bass before the first theme – in a romping 5/4 rhythm - is introduced. This sprawling tune runs through a variety of moods and motifs – each one as captivating as the next. Though the title refers to a musically-rich, climatically diverse region of eastern Brazil (the birthplace of maracatu and frevo), the piece seems to have few of the obvious 'Brazilian' elements we've come to expect. Some sections and passages - particularly the chiming rhythm guitar figure played by Ellman towards the end of the piece - seem to subtly refer to the music of Gismonti and Villa-Lobos, but these influences are not the dominant theme here.

Reclamation” is a captivating and lovely recording replete with attractive surfaces and subtly hidden challenges for the active listener. Crump and his trio once again transcend the down-home trappings of the 'folk-jazz' sub-genre to create music that stands on its own and leaves a lasting impression.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Stephan Crump and Rosetta Trio
  • CD Title: Reclamation
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2010
  • Record Label: Sunnyside Records
  • Rating: Five Stars
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