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Stephan Crump - Rosetta

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Artist: Stephan Crump

Album: Rosetta

Label: Papillon Sounds

Review date: Feb. 6, 2007

Some of the most memorable recordings are those which evoke the feel of a certain place, or whose acoustic is so distinctive that it very nearly transports you as a listener. Bassist Stephan Crump’s Rosetta is one such album. Several years ago, I took note of this excellent player when I heard his album Tuckahoe, when he announced his presence as a bassist who can work fluidly in a number of different idioms at once. But he immediately struck me as a lyrical player, and that's the quality that makes Rosetta such a gorgeous recording.

He’s joined by acoustic guitarist Liberty Ellman and electric guitarist Jamie Fox on this session, warmly recorded in a Brooklyn home studio. The date consists of eleven Crump originals, all combining a kind of Giuffre-like chamber intensity with cool school Tristano lines and a really open, honest lyricism. And of course there’s the tones, starting with Crump’s big Haden-influenced sound, moving outward to include Ellman’s crisp acoustic lines (wending and serpentine for the most part, but also occasionally sunny and pared-down) and Fox’s polished electric (a little brighter than some jazz players, but lustrous all the same, and incorporating more rests and intervals than Ellman).

But while the taut interplay is certainly the strongest component of this record, the trio has some range, too. For while Rosetta is obviously a strings-lover’s dream, certain tracks (like “Were It a Loss”) seem to have the quizzical beauty of a recent Marilyn Crispell or Paul Bley date. Hear this in the shimmering, textural, bell-like sounds on “Carrousel en Verre,” or on fractal, jagged pieces like “Kudzu” or “Atanarjuat,” or on the billowing darkness of “Our Survival (which, like many of these pieces, Crump composed at home on his Rhodes following September 11). Elsewhere, they move into a more earthy, blues-indebted direction on “Rozie,” a tune that fans of the old Metheny/Haden combination will dig. But nothing about this music is treacle; the guitarists’ lines are way too interesting, the harmonies too elliptical, and the push/pull structure of the tunes a bit too out for that. The whole is elegant, beautiful, and highly recommended.

By Jason Bivins

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