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String Theories: Stephan Crump

Bassist Stephan Crump’s trio magic

Stephan Crump by Liberty Ellman

In last year’s JazzTimes critics’ poll, pianist Vijay Iyer’s Historicity (ACT), recorded with his working trio of drummer Marcus Gilmore and bassist Stephan Crump, came in a close second behind saxophonist Joe Lovano’s Blue Note release Folk Art. In slight hindsight, that seems more like an irregularity than an accolade. In so many other places Iyer’s record dominated outright: New York Times critic Ben Ratliff, for instance, named Historicity his album of the year. More than a few of the 99 critics who voted in the 2009 Village Voice Jazz Poll must have shared his enthusiasm, because Historicity topped that list as well.

As bassist Crump explains it, the album’s instant-classic status has more to do with fostering a very special ongoing musical relationship than with any sort of express purpose. “I’ve known for several years, since our first trio gig, that there is a unique power to that organism,” says the Memphis-born, Brooklyn-based musician, 38. “[W]e’ve started to develop our own language. We’ve put in a lot of work and continue to do so … but there’s an effortlessness to it now that we’re continuously able to get back to. It’s beautiful.”

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