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Stephan Crump

On a recent wintry afternoon in Manhattan, Stephan Crump was doing what he has done countless times in the city—toting his upright bass, clad in a heavy black bag, along the sidewalk, as if he had a baby that was also a bear.

Finding his car, Crump shimmied the instrument through the minivan’s side, climbed into the front seat, exhaled, and then grinned. In less than 24 hours, he would fly to Portland to teach “On Magnetism,” a long-accreting class on connecting more deeply with yourself and others through your instrument, and to play solo at the city’s jazz festival. But he knew he first needed to make the 40-minute trek from Brooklyn to Finlay + Gage, the legendary bass shop in Tribeca, to have his bass adjusted, so that he could make that connection himself. The sound post—that stout wooden dowel inside the bass that keeps it from collapsing on itself, and that the French call l’âme, or the soul—wasn’t sitting quite right.

“It’s so personal, elusive, and mysterious. Yes, it’s a mechanical thing, but it has so much mojo to it. That’s why it’s called ‘the soul,’” Crump explained several days later from Portland, noting that the hassle of the errand had been worth it. The bass felt good in his hands again. “It’s this combination of sound and feel.”

For a quarter-century now, pairing sound and feel have become Crump’s ambit and expertise. A bassist and composer, collaborator and bandleader, Crump has become one of New York’s most steadfast and experienced instrumentalists. He was the anchor of Vijay Iyer’s foundational trio for 20 years, even as he developed a slew of imaginative ensembles of his own—the two-guitar Rosetta Trio, the Borderlands Trio alongside Kris Davis and Eric McPherson, the Secret Keeper duo with Mary Halvorson, just to sample. In all of these contexts, the act of bringing the rest of his life to the bass—the trauma and hope, the frustration and delight—remains Crump’s primary motivation. It is, if you will, the soul of his playing.

“All art is an expression of the artist’s presence in that moment. Musicians need our evolving physical capabilities on the instrument and technical knowledge—how notes interact harmonically and melodically, transcribing our heroes, learning all that,” Crump said. “But in the act of making music, we need to allow that stuff to fall away, to not impose it on the music, to relinquish our defenses. We are sculpting energy as we make music, shaping magnetism.”

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Album Review

Joel Harrison &. Anthony Pirog: The Great Mirage

Read "The Great Mirage" reviewed by Mike Jurkovic

The gritty, jammy sonics of the leadoff title track quickly convince the listener that avant guitarists Joel Harrison and Anthony Pirog are hellbent on getting it all out of their systems on The Great Mirage. Bassist Stephan Crump, who lays down his acoustic bass and goes electric, and daredevil drummer Allison Miller, who has absolutely no problem going from zero-to-eternity and cymbal splash to pure bash, sign on and hell breaks loose: witness the obstinate, speed-rock take on ...

Album Review

Cory Smythe: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Read "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" reviewed by John Sharpe

The startling molten sounds which open pianist Cory Smythe's Smoke Gets In Your Eyes signal that this will be no ordinary journey. On the first four cuts he draws on a stellar 11-strong squad which matches leading cutting edge figures such as saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, trumpeter Peter Evans and cellist Tomeka Reid, with colleagues from the International Contemporary Ensemble, hailed as America's foremost new-music group by The New Yorker, such as violinist Josh Modney and sadly deceased saxophonist Ryan Muncy, ...

Album Review

Stephan Crump: Rocket Love

Read "Rocket Love" reviewed by Troy Dostert

One of the most versatile bassists of his generation, Stephan Crump has proven repeatedly that he can do pretty much anything on his instrument. He can lock down some ferocious grooves with Vijay Iyer as a part of the pianist's trio on Accelerando (ACT, 2012) and Break Stuff (ECM, 2015). But he's no stranger to free improvisation either, most notably as a member of the supremely empathetic Borderlands Trio with Kris Davis and Eric McPherson; their double-CD release, Wandersphere (Intakt) ...

Album Review

Borderlands Trio: Wandersphere

Read "Wandersphere" reviewed by John Sharpe

Like a billionaire with money to burn, the Borderlands Trio frequently launch into space, and hit the jackpot in doing so. On this double disc set, the threesome—comprising bassist Stephan Crump, pianist Kris Davis and drummer Eric McPherson—luxuriate in the wide open vistas of four expansive improvisations of between nineteen and forty-two minutes. The decision to play and present entire pieces rather than excerpts, as they did on some of the shorter numbers on their debut Asteroidea (Intakt, 2017), pays ...

Radio & Podcasts

Borderlands Trio, Amir ElSaffar & Michael Attias

Read "Borderlands Trio, Amir ElSaffar & Michael Attias" reviewed by Maurice Hogue

This episode is packed with music from several new releases. Stephan Crump's Borderlands Trio leads things off with a track from Wandersphere's set of riveting extended songs. Then come tunes from William Parker, a pair of bands from Poland—Kwasny Desczc and saxophonist Michal Bak's Quartetto, Canadian bassist Nick Adema, Chilean saxophonist now living in France—Diego Manuschevich, bassist André Carvalho, and saxophonist Michael Attias with a killer group from Buenos Aires. Lots of other great stuff as well. Enjoy!

Album Review

Stephan Crump: Wandersphere

Read "Wandersphere" reviewed by Mark Corroto

Let's play a game. Call it “Is it improvised or composed?" Today's contestants are the Borderlands Trio, comprised of bassist Stephan Crump, pianist Kris Davis, and drummer Eric McPherson. Their release Wandersphere, recorded in December, 2020, consists of four tracks on two CDs. Four lengthy tracks, the shortest nearly twenty minutes and the longest at forty-one minutes plus. The game is, of course, rigged because listeners of the trio's previous release Asteroidea (Intakt, 2017) will know all the music is ...

Album Review

Borderlands Trio: Stephan Crump / Kris Davis / Eric McPherson: Wandersphere

Read "Wandersphere" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

It begins so quietly, whispering out of silence like a ghost. The creaking door of Stephan Crump's arco bass, the hiss of Eric McPherson's brushes, the parsimonious delicacy of Kris Davis' piano notes. This is what opens Disc one of this two CD outing by the Borderlands Trio. The tune's following half hour's worth of improvisational expressionism--an exercise in filling the vacuum with free flowing musical ideas--gathers momentum, like an incoming storm, or maybe a colony of microscopic organisms reaching ...

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The Jazz Session #181: Stephan Crump

The Jazz Session #181: Stephan Crump

Source: Michael Ricci



Stephan Crump - Reclamation (Sunnyside)

Stephan Crump - Reclamation (Sunnyside)

Source: Master of a Small House

Echoing the ancient cross-textual applications of its namesake, Stephan Crump's Rosetta Trio is something of a departure in contemporary jazz: A string ensemble that translates the chamber connotations of its instrumentation into a strong rhythmic versatility more endemic to American folk forms. Crump leads the group from a position of quiet authority on double bass. Guitarists Liberty Ellman and David Fox assume equal footing at the flanks, the first fretting acoustic strings while the second picks electric. Their first outing ...

"ingenious originals" —The New Yorker "contained soulfulness" —Downbeat "a low-key marvel" —JazzTimes "a title to be savored" —The Village Voice "bareness in emotion" —NPR "Strong narrative sense, an unfettered conception of melody, and the confidence to elevate improvisations to a new level of empathy...speaks softly persuasive volumes" —Carlo Wolff, JazzTimes "Someone's got to be the Holy Spirit, representing your faith that this jazz will breathe...It's the bassist, of course, cutting through with big, wise, rounded notes." —Ben Ratliff, NY Times "Crump's bass playing and especially his soloing should be something to marvel at for anyone who appreciates finely crafted, artistic jazz musicianship" —Michael Nastos, All Music Guide




Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Slow Water

Papillon Sounds


The Great Mirage

ASG Recordings


Rocket Love

Papillon Sounds


Smoke Gets In Your...

Pyroclastic Records



Intakt Records


Last Desert

Pi Recordings



From: Slow Water
By Stephan Crump

Combustion 1

From: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
By Stephan Crump



Bob DeVos
guitar, electric
Skinnay Ennis
composer / conductor

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