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Stephan Crump: Rosetta (2006)

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Stephan Crump: Rosetta How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Rosetta represents a meeting of three friends playing compositions by bassist/leader Stephan Crump in a living room-type setting. The trio consists of Crump, acoustic guitarist Liberty Ellman and electric guitarist Jamie Fox. Crump reports that the actual recording session was really no different from many such musical meetings of this trio, albeit more focused and a bit more formal in terms of working with a specific itinerary of tunes.

Crump leads a rather eclectic musical life. He is married to Jen Chapin (daughter of the late singer/songwriter Harry Chapin) and performs, writes and produces for her. Crump has also been the long-term bassist for jazz pianist Vijay Iyer. In addition, Crump frequently appears and records with his two musical collaborators here, Ellman and Fox. Crump has also avoided genre classification in the recent past by performing with artists from across the board, such as Ashford & Simpson, the Violent Femmes, the Mahavishnu Project, saxophonists Dave Liebman and Greg Osby, and blues legend Johnny Copeland.

The compositions Crump wrote for Rosetta are tied in with a post-9/11 environment. "Carrousel en Verre" was written on Block Island at a friend's wedding in 2001, and that was the last time that he saw another friend who became a World Trade Center casualty. The title tune was inspired by cinematic compositions (another example of the diversity of Crump's vocational pursuits). "Atanarjuat," the only dissonant and up-tempo song on the album, was inspired by the thought of having to "imagine running for your life, naked on the Arctic ice."

The music on Rosetta is an amalgamation of three like minds sharing their experiences within the context of Crump's compositions. I've only heard Liberty Ellman before in an avant-garde setting on Ophiuchus Butterfly (Pi, 2006). But on this session, Ellman shows the soul of a true acoustic "picker," and on some occasions I was reminded of the back-porch sessions of Americana mandolinist/guitarist David Grisman, when he gathers others together for an informal recording session.

I've never heard electric guitarist Jamie Fox before, but learned from the notes that he comes from a folk, R&B and blues background, in addition to being a jazz composer. However, when Fox takes the melody statement, as he does on "Our Survival," he produces the sound of cold steel, rather than warm acoustic guitar. Understanding that he is likely providing a chorded backdrop for this session, I'm still a bit ambivalent about the need for an electric instrument here.

Stephan Crump remains the backbone of this combo, providing the constant pulse of his own compositions. The resonant and pleasing sound of his bass work provides the glue that is needed to hold this session together.

Track Listing: Tag; We're At A Loss; Rosetta; Kudzu; Carrousel En Verre; Rosie; Residual; Residual; Our Survival; Ingenue; Atanarjuat; The Bells of Bamburg.

Personnel: Stephan Crump: acoustic bass; Liberty Ellman: acoustic guitar; Jamie Fox: electric guitar.

Record Label: Papillon Sounds

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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