Stephan Crump Quartet
New York City
Stephan Crump’s 1997 debut, Poems and Other Things (available at www.cdbaby.com), revealed a storyteller’s sensibility and, as the title suggests, a poet’s penchant for conjuring images and moods. The Brooklyn-based bassist chose for his ensemble Chris Cheek on saxophones, Roberta Piket on piano, and Rob Garcia on drums. The prevailing mood was dark, the playing wonderful, the messages genuinely personal and affecting. An independent release, the disc was even handsomely packaged, underscoring Crump’s uncommonly fine-tuned aesthetic approach.
Armed with a new batch of tunes, Crump brought a quartet to the C-Note, a no-frills establishment in Manhattan’s East Village. Cheek remained on saxophones, but guitarist Jamie Fox and drummer Scott McLemore were new blood. Crump’s compositions were marked by an eclecticism somewhat similar to that of Marc Johnson. Straight swing and bebop were pretty much absent from both sets; instead, Crump opted for the politicized latin of "Allende," the stop-and-start samba of "These Days," the reggae flavor of "Here’s a Goodbye" and "Two Islands and the Waters Between Them," the loping quirkiness of "Hazy Days," and the fast funk of "Deluge." The slow, odd-metered groove of "Stolid" hearkened back to the kind of music heard on Crump’s CD.
Cheek was solid as the main melodic voice; his solos were expressive and full of forward motion. Fox’s fluidity was a pleasure, as were his repeated intervallic surprises. The smiling McLemore anchored it all with his versatile grab-bag of grooves. And Crump, in the driver’s seat, handled the rhythm section/soloist/leader juggling act with aplomb. Hear the Stephan Crump Quartet for yourself when they return to the C-Note on April 16.