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Stephan Crump’s Rhombal: Rhombal

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Whether he’s anchoring the Vijay Iyer Trio, keeping things at once action-packed and understated in the two-guitar/bass Rosetta Trio or testing the limits in duets with adventurous friends like Steve Lehman, bassist Stephan Crump can always generate attention. A few notes or a double-stop will resonate deeply, setting a mood and creating anticipation for what will follow. The music on Rhombal is dedicated to Crump’s brother Patrick, who died in 2014, at the age of 44, after battling an aggressive form of sarcoma. But the music is neither a wake to mourn his death nor an attempt to reflect on his brother’s life. “Much more, it’s a commemoration of a death well confronted, of a spiritual evolution I witnessed in my brother during our last days together,” he says in the disc’s press release.

Drummer Tyshawn Sorey and Crump have played together for over a decade, often in the Iyer Trio. Newer to the bassist’s sphere are trumpeter Adam O’Farrill and tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin. Crump’s introspective writing really comes to life through this combination of personalities. The rhythm section creates a slow, almost sensual groove in “Grovi,” and Sorey makes the uneven time of “Esquima Dream” move like a solid 4/4. Eskelin and O’Farrill harmonize in a sharp, smart way; both also excel at throwing different tempos at the rhythm section while soloing. As Eskelin solos on “Birdwhistle,” Crump locks into a one-chord vamp and builds the tension, sending the group on a free digression that actually brings them closer together as a unit. It also serves as a good lead-in to “Pulling Pillars/Outro for Patty,” a closing medley with a slow 6/8 gospel feel that morphs into a 7/8 vamp. Hopefully this won’t be the last we hear from this combination of players.

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