Stephen Crump – Stephen Crump’s Rhombal – Papillon Sounds PS51514 stereo double vinyl, TT: 59:33 ****:
Jazz bassist and composer releases an unusual tribute album.
(Adam O’Farrill – trumpet; Ellery Eskelin – tenor saxophone; Stephen Crump – doublebass; Tyshawn Sorey – drums)
Stephen Crump has established a solid reputation as a musician, composer and bandleader. He is known as a member of the Vijay Iyer Trio and his own Rosetta Trio. In 2015, he put together the Rhombal Quartet, with drummer Tyshawn Sorey, trumpeter Adam O’Farrill and saxophonist Ellery Eskelin. His intention was to pay tribute to his late brother, Patrick. Stephen Crump’s Rhombal was released in 2016 on MP3 and CD and now is available on vinyl format.
Side A opens (“No D For Nelson”) with a vampy doublebass line, that is maintained throughout the piece. Crump and drummer Tyshawn Sorey (who are previously band mates) interact in a precise, cohesive manner. The melodic instrumentation falls to trumpeter Adam O’Farrill and saxophonist Ellery Eskelin. They delve into some abstract structures together and find room for solos. There is also a nimble, accelerated tempo break. “Grovi” embraces a funkier, soulful feel centered by Crump’s deft bass work. Trumpet and saxophone interact in both harmonious and unison lines. The complex arrangements stretch genre boundaries.
Side B offers three diverging jazz interpretations. “Skippanigam” has a tougher bop edge with Crump and Sorey pushing the rhythm. On “Loose Boy”, there is a refreshing trumpet/saxophone counterpoint followed by a trumpet solo against an eloquent bass line. When the quartet blends, it creates an atmospheric resonance. O’Farrill’s sharper horn accents liven up the jam. Perhaps the group’s creative impulse is most present on “Esquima Dream”. There is a finger-snapping underlying theme eschewing a hypnotic pulse. “O’Farrill and Eskelin play in glowing harmony with staccato inflections.
Crump’s varied arrangements continue. “How Close Are You” begins with a delicate bass and cymbal. Eventually, the melody establishes itself with an exotic, cinematic flair. First a trumpet lead is explored with saxophone backup, and then is followed by a subtle double bass solo that basks in cymbal accompaniment. Crump also works with O’Farrill on an interlude, emphasizing his versatility. Everything flows together. The group gets a full-on jazz groove with “Tschi”. Eskein and O’Farrill have extended solos in this medium-swing jam. The last side features an abstract, bebop-infused theme (“Birdwhistle”) that is challenging and rewarding. Crump’s doublebass approximates a rhythm guitar and is at the center. There are two innovative rhythm shifts and Sorey’s drumming is prominent. The intensity builds throughout the number and the texture is expanded. The finale (“Pulling Pillars/Outro For Patty”) is exemplary and fitting as a tribute. A bowed doublebass intro establishes a gospel resonance that morphs into a slow, New Orleans-tinged waltz. The trumpet and sax are deeply tender. But the finish tells a different tale with a joyful Latin uptempo transition.
Stephen Crump’s Rhombal is what jazz is supposed to be, unpredictable and compelling. The audio quality of this vinyl pressing is very good. The separation is even, and the overall mix is balanced. None of the instruments overwhelm the intricate chemistry of this eclectic quartet. The musical patterns are seamless.
Side A; No D For Nelson; Grovi
Side B: Skippaningam; Loose Boy; Esquima Dream
Side C:How Close Are you; Tschi
Side D: Birdwhistle; Pulling Pillars – Outro For Patty