Here is a string ensemble for the new century! Bassist Stephan Crump is known for his association with pianist Vijay Iyer; he has taken some of the personal and novel qualities of that collaboration and somehow found a striking new way to express powerful feelings about what it is to create musicand, further, what it is to be alive in these times. The original fragments out of which these more full and deep creations were formed emerged in the period after September 11, 2001. The works are colored by loss and tragedy, but they soar forth into a celebration of survival, friendship and love.
Crump is a powerful leader who offers the other stunning playersguitarists Liberty Ellman (acoustic) and Jamie Fox (electric)a solid base from which to create dazzling textures. He puts down strong grooves and inventive solo statements, and his friends find their way in and around the intricacies. The soundscape is sparse yet vibrant, and rich with color. The compositions sound orchestrated and finely drawn, yet they have an openness which suggests and then allows the most open improvisations.
The set opens with a perfect, simple vehicle for these playersthe short repeating form of "Tag sends these sensitive and masterly musicians into the atmosphere for a lovely simultaneous improvisation. And then after this airy flight, the players come down to earth for the dark, deep "Were it a Loss, which can be heard and felt as a dirge, but never loses a sense of the transcendent power of music. Just a few tunes later, Crump celebrates the growth and shapes of "Kudzu from his native Tennessee. The twisty groove finds these three coming together in a delicate dance.
It's stunning to think that these three instruments can create such a rich world of imagination and color. And this world can take on epic proportionsas on "Our Survival, where the guitarists draw new worlds out of the coming together of the tune's sections. Ellman shines as a soloist, but he does so thanks to the palette that the others have helped create.
Personnel: Stephan Crump: acoustic bass; Liberty Ellman: acoustic guitar; Jamie Fox: electric guitar.