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Stephan Crump's Rosetta Trio at Constellation

Hrayr Attarian By

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Stephan Crump's Rosetta Trio
Constellation
Chicago IL
May 3rd 2014

For a little over a year drummer Mike Reed's Constellation has served as a refuge for fans of adventurous music who were left "orphaned" after the death of Chicago Jazz doyen, saxophonist Fred Anderson and the demise of his original Velvet Lounge. The new venue, with its perfect, resonant acoustics, has hosted a wide variety of explorative musicians from various genres. It was here; in Studio A that bassist Stephan Crump and his Rosetta trio mesmerized their audience with tightly woven harmonic layers and virtuosic string-work.

Opening the first set with "Ending" from their third release Twirl (Sunnyside, 2014) the three men exhibited an unparalleled camaraderie as they created a darkly hued ambience with their complex, earthy interplay. Flanked by two guitarists, the idiosyncratically creative Jamie Fox on electric and the versatile stylist Liberty Ellman on acoustic, Crump explored the entire range of his instrument with prodigious agility, making it both a rhythmic anchor and a melodic lead. On "Twirl" a bright, angular tune with hints of folkish Americana, Crump percussed the bass' hollow body creating a cadenced scaffold around which the melody danced in relaxed, enticing phrases.

The group also borrowed from other traditions, fusing all influences into stimulating and spontaneous themes and motifs. The pensive "Escalateur" for instance opened with Crump's somber con-arco that hinted strongly at the western Classical canon. The guitarists' melancholic strums and sonic swirls gently fell on the audience like multihued autumn leaves. The haunting piece concluded on a Zen like contemplative tone.

During the second set, Ellman's own "Cryosize Them" featured his intricate flamenco-esque soloing and progressed into a free flowing jazzy and stirring three-way conversation. Fox's "Conversate (talking-wise)," meanwhile, was built around overlapping individual streams of consciousness resulting in a uniquely engaging exchange of ideas with a deep sense of the blues.

The highlight of this intriguing evening was the vibrantly organic "Our Survival." Opening with Crump's edgy improvisation the tune flirted with but did not give in to dissonance. His mellifluous bowing set an expectant mood as the piece evolved into a romantic nocturne fading out on a bright, cinematic tone.

This intimate concert that concluded with a standing ovation from the small but attentive crowd demonstrated Crump and his band's accomplished musicianship and their charming artistry. It was also yet another well realized evening at Chicago's new home for innovative performances.

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