[15 December 2006]
“Rosetta”? There is a famous tune composed by Earl Hines, but the one here of that name, like all the rest on this CD, is from Stephan Crump, who leads (and supports) on upright acoustic string bass, with Liberty Ellman on acoustic guitar and Jamie Fox on amplified. Rosetta is a CD which grew on me. Unlike more conventional notions of jazz—not merely the narrow notions lack of media coverage can foster—is the range of colour, achieved with inventive rather than unorthodox use of the instrumentation. Combinations of chaste approaches on all three instruments at the same level of volume—the bass very forward— achieve a remarkable palette, subtler than merely texture suggests. The music tends toward the meditative, and with no outright swingers the bassist still maintains a nice pulse. The emphasis is lyrical-contrapuntal, the sound often beautiful, the bass or the acoustic or the electric guitar to the fore. There’s drama, though it would also be interesting if Crump and two saxophonists, rather than two guitarists, tried the same repertroire. On the medium-tempo opener, solo bass initiates momentum, then first the acoustic guitar’s there, then there’s the trio. The many opportunities taken for linear developments of the material are taken rather in ensemble than as solos. Crump’s usually-central bass holds things together on “Kudzu” while the guitarists improvise strange fragmentary phrases like blooms sprouting from the harmonies. “The Bells of Bamburg” is very pretty and mistitled. It’s either English Bamburgh (pronounced rather like Bamboro) or German Bamberg that inspired that dreamy atmospheric number, which concludes a very inventive set. Actually, it’s Bamburgh.