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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.

New York City’s only jazz festival has come and gone, and I was there.  So were a LOT of other people.  My one-word impression: wow.

For a comprehensive and well-written account of the two-night jazz extravaganza, check out Ben Ratliff’s review for the New York Times.  Nate Chinen, Ben Allison, Jacob Teichroew and Hank Shteamer also have some spot-on reflections.

The general theme of those reviews is that the festival was a huge success, attracting not only brilliant music but amazingly enthusiastic audiences.  I couldn’t agree more — Saturday’s crowd was especially mind-blowing.  The combination left me with more moments of jaw-dropping jazz-fan euphoria than any event that I have attended in a long time.  To borrow a phrase from Vijay Iyer, tossed out at the end of his set at Le Poisson Rouge that featured one of the liveliest audiences of the evening: “And they told me jazz is dead…”

Yeah, not so much.

Click through for the play-by-play of my Friday night: Read the rest of this entry »

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