Monday, September 16, 2013

David Binney in New Haven (finally) + Rosetta Trio's Swirl of Thwirl

Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street in New Haven, started its Fall 2013 Concert Series last week with the amazing polyglot music of Gerald Cleaver & Black Host, a group that featured the fine alto saxophone work of Darius Jones.  This Friday evening (9/20), the recording studio/performance space plays host to another impressive alto saxophonist, David Binney.  Born in Florida, raised in California, and now living in New York City, Binney first came to critical attention touring with Cecil McBee in 1991 and went on to form Lost Tribe.  That quintet featured guitarists Adam Rogers and David Gilmore with the rhythm section of Fima Ephron (bass) and Ben Perowsky (drums), all of whom save for the bassist, are currently leaders of their own groups.  He went on to form the quartet Lan Xang with fellow saxophonist Donny McCaslin, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Jeff Hirschfield - that collective's first CD was the debut recording on Binney's Mythology label in late 1997 (their 2nd CD, with Kenny Wollesen on drums, showed up on Naxos Jazz.) He's worked with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, the Saturday Night Live Band, Bobby Previte, Edward Simon and others as well as produced CDs for Donny McCaslin, pianist John Escreet, flautist Jamie Baum and guitarist Joel Harrison.

Over the past decade, Binney has issued recordings on his own label (2011's "Graylen Epicenter" made numerous "best-of" lists), on ACT Music, and, most notably, 5 excellent recordings for Criss Cross.  His latest, "Lifted Land", came out earlier this year and features pianist Craig Taborn, drummer/percussionist Tyshawn Sorey and bassist Eivind Opsvik.  On Friday, the bassist will join the saxophonist as will pianist Jacob Sacks and drummer Nasheet Waits. One of the reasons to be excited is that Binney's music crosses numerous musical borders with, usually, fully realized melodies, smart harmonic arrangements and rousing rhythmic interplay.  As a soloist, he can be as fleet-fingered as fellow alto players Rudresh Mahanthappa and Miguel Zenon and, like both of them, has his own "sound."

Yes, I am thrilled David Binney is coming to Connecticut and to the acoustically rich space of Firehouse 12.  He and the group will play 2 sets - 8:30 and 10 p.m. - for more information, go to To learn more about the artist, go to

Bassist Stephan Crump has been an integral member of several groups over the past decade including the Vijay Iyer Trio, guitarist Jim Campilongo's Electric Trio and in his wife Jen Chapin's Trio (along with guitarist Jamie Fox).  He's also worked Michael McDonald, drummer Billy Hart, pianist Kenny Werner and singer-songwriter Lucy Kaplansky.

As a leader or co-leader, Crump has issued 8 CDs, the latest being "Thwirl" (Sunnyside Records), his 3rd recording with Rosetta Trio. Comprised of the bassist, Jamie Fox (electric guitar), and Liberty Ellman, Crump organized the ensemble in 2004 to record pieces he composed in the days after 9/11/01.  The blend of acoustic bass and guitar with electric guitar created an intimate feel that carried to the Trio's 2010 Sunnyside debut "Reclamation" and onto the new recording.  But, "Thwirl" feels different in that a sense of playfulness has creeped into the music, there's more "rhythms" and "grooves" and the interplay is even crisper, never feeling forced.  The title track comes in on percussive guitar work from both Fox and Ellman while Crump pats on a rhythm on the body of the bass.  One by one, the trio falls into a groove that has a West African feel and, instead of pushing onto into solos, the band "dances" together.  "He Runs Circle" has a "groove" as well but it's more subdued, with a West Coast folk feel.  Early in the song, the guitarists alternate choruses while the bassist keeps the piece moving forward, at times offering counterpoint then Fox takes over with a forceful solo. Ellman, who works with Henry Threadgill's Zooid as well as mixing, mastering and producing numerous artists including Steve Coleman, Sam Rivers and Gregory Porter (and more), takes the next solo - he is such an impressive player, so melodic and original. "Palimpestic" opens with noises, "tight" plucking and picking above forceful bass lines, with the guitarists breaking into a rhythmic figure while Crump plays quite an expressive solo right to the end.

The bassist composed all but one of the 10 tracks; Jamie Fox makes his first contribution as a composer with "Conversate (talk-Wise)", notable for its well-formed melody line and the intelligent harmonies.  Crump re-arranged his "Stolid", a country-blues piece from an early CD ("Tuckahoe"), transforming the simple yet singable melody into "Still Stolid" that is anything but bland or emotionless.  Ellman really "gets down" during his solo, setting the bar for Fox to show his bluesy side.

Stephan Crump, over his career, has proven he can play many different styles of music, shown that he can be the foundation for singers, pianists and saxophonists.  He seems to have an affinity for guitars, having done duo work with Mary Halvorson, and in his work with the Rosetta Trio.  But, this is not really work but play, his intuitive interactions with Liberty Ellman and Jamie Fox the result of many nights on stages around the world and days rehearsing and jamming in his home studio.  "Thwirl" is both challenging and comforting, a treat late at night or under headphones.  And, it's honest music, homemade music, and downright satisfying music.  For more information, go to

After Stephan Crump completes a European tour with the Vijay Iyer Trio in October, Rosetta Trio performs a CD release weekend opening (yay!!) at Firehouse 12 on November 1, a House Concert in Ellicott, Maryland, the next night and onto to Baltimore's The Windup Space on Sunday November 3.   His website has all the details and more.

1 comment:

  1. Richard's readers: Stephan Crump talks about his new album on the latest episode of The Jazz Session --

    The episode also features Vijay Iyer, Mary Halvorson, Nicky Schrire, and a preview of the new season of jazz at the Atlas in DC.