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Stephan Crump, Reclamation

Bassist Stephan Crump is probably best known as the third wheel of Vijay Iyer‘s trio. But his recent release, Reclamation, shows that he can shine as a leading man–this time with a trio of a different sort. Featured alongside two guitarists–one electric and one acoustic–he creates a sonic landscape that is deeply indebted to jazz, but stretches out in interesting ways. For a group that lacks a drummer, the band possesses some serious groove; still, the tunes range from the driving force of “Overreach” to the more ambient, introspective “Pernambuco.”

The overriding theme this week–what makes all of this music better, in my opinion, than Highway Rider–is what I perceive as musical honesty. Reclamation projects a powerful sense of Crump’s compositional and improvisational identity. The unique timbre of the bass with electric and acoustic guitar provides a vehicle for vibrant interaction between the three; the absence of a drummer allows for complex rhythmic twists to be executed smoothly.

I found out about this record thanks to meeting Crump–a fellow Amherst College alum–after one of his sets at the Winter JazzFest. It was his recording that inspired me to seek out other new music and write these reviews.

Purchase a copy of the new album here. And hear music from the trio tomorrow (June 1) on The Checkout, or live at the Jazz Gallery this Thursday (June 3). I’ll be there on Thursday, so say hello if you do come by!

Is this guy just so 2002?

The media hype machine might not have noticed, but Brad Mehldau is no longer on the cutting edge of new jazz releases. Since the release of Highway Rider in March, I have had the pleasure of hearing at least six new jazz CD releases that may not have the same media profile, but convey a whole lot more inspired music. They are Reclamation by Stephan Crump’s Rosetta Trio, It’s About That Time by the Hot Club of Detroit, Bloom by Ben Monder and Bill McHenry, A Vacant Lot by The Inhabitants, Backatown by Trombone Shorty and Royal Toast by the Claudia Quintet.

Last fall, I participated in a conversation at NPR’s A Blog Supreme, where seven young jazz writers listed some of their favorite releases from the past decade. Brad Mehldau was a consensus pick among my fellow jazz youngsters, and so when his new CD Highway Rider came out in March, it was a big event across the Jazz Internet. Some examples of Mehldau’s praise can be found at Nextbop and Pop & Hiss, the LA Times music blog. Jacob Teichroew from, on the other hand, wasn’t too impressed.

I wasn’t wowed by what I heard, either, so I chose not to weigh in despite its status as one of the most-hyped jazz releases that will probably occur this year. But since then, I’ve heard a number of great new jazz CDs, and these six are my favorites. I guess this is somewhat of a follow up to Phil Freeman’s album review odyssey over at Burning Ambulance, where he reviewed 31 albums in 31 days. This project is a bit less ambitious: I’ll be highlighting six releases over the next six days, starting tomorrow. In the meantime, check them out!

Reclamation by Stephan Crump’s Rosetta Trio

It’s About That Time by the Hot Club of Detroit

Bloom by Ben Monder and Bill McHenry

A Vacant Lot by The Inhabitants

Backatown by Trombone Shorty

Royal Toast by the Claudia Quintet

You’ll get one review a day for the rest of the week, starting with Reclamation tomorrow. Also keep your eye out for Rosetta Trio’s studio session on The Checkout this Tuesday (June 1), and their hit at the Jazz Gallery on Thursday (June 3).

UPDATE: Matt Merewitz had the bright idea of chiming in with his own suggestions for new releases that are better than Highway Rider in the comments section. Please augment his list if you can, as I’m always looking for new stuff to check out.

My friend Paul Brady–Django Reinhardt scholar, guitarist and aspiring sommelier–has spent much of the past two years with me in the MA Program in Jazz History and Research at Rutgers. He is now the proud author of a new blog, It’s About That Time, named after his latest recording with the Hot Club of Detroit.

Paul has posted here before, so you know what to expect from him: a unique, thoughtful perspective that challenges the stereotypes about jazz, the guitar, classical music, wine and whatever else comes up along the way. I know that I’m looking forward to reading, and I hope that you do too. While you’re at it, follow him on Twitter @paulbradymusic.

Again, the link: Paul Brady’s It’s About That Time

I’ve just posted a piece over at the brand-new Jazz Journalists Association website, JJA News–check it out at this link. In it I discuss the promise and pitfalls of jazz discourse across the new technological platforms that have emerged recently online. I respond to a couple of different unhelpful trends that are emerging and try to find some middle ground. The fancy pull-quote, which sums it up pretty well, reads:

It is always a challenge to avoid the extremes of naive youthful exuberance and hardened cultural elitism.

That gets to the heart of what I’m trying to do in my studies, here at the blog, and even in my trombone playing. It’s a tough row to hoe, and I haven’t quite figured out how to pull it off yet, but here I am, stumbling through it for the world to see, hear and read. Leave a comment here or there — as always, I welcome feedback and look forward to continuing the conversation.

Again, the link: How We Talk About Jazz in 2010

As a part of my M.A. degree at Rutgers, I have had the pleasure of interning at WBGO, the NYC area’s leading jazz radio station. Working closely with producer Josh Jackson, I have begun to learn the ropes for putting together their weekly showcase for new jazz trends, The Checkout.

Since it’s finals week and all, Josh decided to hand the reins over to me for this week’s show (well, Josh still helped, but I’ll take the glory anyway.) Tune in tomorrow night at 6:30 pm EST to 88.3 FM in the New York metro area, or listen online at Wednesday morning, the show will be up at the website as well. While you’re at it, subscribe to the podcast.

UPDATE: Show just aired live! Thanks to everyone who listened. If you missed it, check it out here.

This week’s show will highlight some of the best student performances from last month’s Jazz Appreciation Month celebration. To frame the hour, I asked a few questions to four different students who are graduating from local jazz schools: Peter Yuskauskas from The New School, Jeremy Fratti from Jersey City University, Julian Smith from the Rutgers Mason Gross School for the Arts and Paul Brady from the Rutgers Master’s in Jazz History and Research. It will also feature music from the Julliard and Berklee student jazz ensembles as well as music by the four interviewees.

Enjoy the show tomorrow night, and feel free to let me know what you thought of it here. And while you’re at it, stop over and pledge a few dollars over at WBGO — your support will help shows like The Checkout continue to grace the airwaves and the internets.

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