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Album Review

Stephan Crump: Rocket Love


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Stephan Crump: Rocket Love
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) was one of the under-recognized highlights of 2021. Crump's stylistic fluidity also informs his first solo bass recording, Rocket Love, in addition to the wide-ranging material he draws upon for inspiration.

The title track alone speaks volumes: it's a tune from Stevie Wonder's Hotter Than July (Tamla, 1980), and it embodies all of the original's soulfulness while still carving out space for creative tangents. There are a few other covers, each of which strikes the same balance between deference and innovation. Thelonious Monk's "Pannonica" is faithfully rendered, with some feisty percussive slaps at the outset to pique interest. Rodgers and Hart's "It Never Entered My Mind" and Billy Strayhorn / Duke Ellington's "Isfahan" are memorable also, with Crump providing just enough of a tether to the melodies to avoid becoming burdened by them.

Crump's own material is just as potent. There are two overdubbed tracks, the two-part "Lament," which rely on several layered arco bass parts to create an intriguing chamber-like density, even if its somber hues are not entirely in keeping with the prevailing buoyancy of the album. More compelling are "Groove for Stacey Abrams," with an understated yet insistent swinging urgency, "Enough," with an even deeper, funkier groove, and "Whoof," where Crump's arco takes on a more energetic aspect, eagerly darting and dodging throughout. And then there's the compact, powerful closer, "See You When," in which Crump's ability to do more with less is on full display: well-placed, deliberate notes that convey a rich emotional depth without the need for garrulity.

A very fine album all-around, and one that captures Crump's multifaceted aesthetic wonderfully.

Track Listing

Lament (part I); Isfahan; What is The; Pannonica; Groove for Stacey Abrams; Whoof; It Never Entered My Mind; Enough; Rocket Love; Lament (part II); See You When.


Stephan Crump: bass.

Album information

Title: Rocket Love | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Papillon Sounds

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