Stephan Crump's Rhombal

Bassist, group leader and composer Stephan Crump assembled Rhombal, a two-horn, bass and drums quartet to explore a series of compositions he’d written for his late brother. “…it’s a commemoration of a death well-confronted, of a spiritual evolution I witnessed in my brother during out last days together, and of how close we left each other after what had been, for many years, a very troubled relationship.”

The album, however, is not about sadness nor is the music downcast. The band consists of drummer Tyshawn Sorey, with whom Crump has played for years both on stage and in the studio (since 2011 in the Vijay Iyer sextet), the veteran tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin and the young (22 years old) trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, who is the son of the Cuban pianist, arranger and bandleader Arturo O’Farrill.

Mr. Crump gave kind permission to put one track up on YouTube, leaving the track choice up to editor Michael Fremer who chose “Tschi”, which is the second track on side 3 of the two LP set. The more obvious choice might have been the opener “No D for Nelson” or “Esquima Dream”, but “Tschi” has some lockstep sax/trumpet playing that demonstrates precision playing, while also allowing the two to explore individually behind Crump’s and Sorey’s muscular rhythm tracks.

Crump’s reaction to the choice was: “Sure, ‘Tschi’ is a great call…glad you were drawn to that one. It happens to be a very clear example of a number of the goals I had in mind when putting this band together and writing the music. Here’s a statement from my song notes: “Tschi" embodies a lot of the goals or ideas I had in mind when putting this group together. I didn't want a chordal instrument, for instance, but wanted the band to be that instrument, sometimes vertically (as in this piece where we all move together), other times in a more additive, linear fashion. I also didn't want to overwrite, but really just set up distinct environments for group exploration...normally short forms that we could open up, ourselves. And I wanted to deal with some straight up swing feel on a few tunes, which I hadn't done in any of my recent groups. This one is really simple and all about the developing diads in the horns, like different facets of the same object, with some added tension from the odd fifth lobe/phrase to the main section before the turnaround, and finally, a second section for some release.”

Crump's insistent bass lines dig deeply, anchoring what might otherwise sound like free-floating excursions. At times Eskelin and O'Farrill dive and soar together, which can be thrilling, but there's plenty of room for the two horns to go their own ways, which provides for a different but equally satisfying kind of excitement.

The recording, produced at The Bunker Studio, Brooklyn, NY, features wide dynamics and impressive transparency, particularly O'Farrell's trumpet, which hangs suspended in three dimensional space to the right of the left speaker. Clearly some fine microphones, well-placed, were in the studio during the two recording sessions.

Released on double vinyl March, 2017 (the CD came earlier, September, 13th 2016) the album is available here and here.

For more about the 45 year old Mr. Crump who has has played with everyone from Gordon Gano (Violent Femmes) to Jorma Kaukonen and Portishead’s Dave McDonald, go here.

rshak47's picture

Like what I heard and just ordered the title.

kruhlin's picture

Thank you for introducing me to yet another great artist(s)!

alfresh's picture

Damn good. Thank for introducing another new one for us.