Choosing to focus on the bass clarinet makes Jason Stein a unique figure in jazz. While notables like Eric Dolphy and David Murray have used the instrument as part of their repertoire, Stien’s focus on the instrument has led him to develop his own unique voice. The remainder of the quartet consists of Keefe Jackson on tenor saxophone and and contrabass clarinet, Josh Abrams on bass and Frank Rosaly on drums. “Background Music” and “Lennie Bird” bookend the album with short, taut performances and dexterously intertwined horns. The saxophone and bass clarinet swirl around each other like a helix over throbbing bass and drums. Three compositions by Thelonious Monk are also featured. “Skippy” has the bass and drums developing a great foundation for the wonderful Monk melody before Stein breaks out for a solo statement. The two develop a really nice reed interaction over a swinging rhythm. “Gallop’s Gallop” takes an experimental track beginning with a gentle statement of the melody, then moving into an abstract section of squeaks and squawks before returning to a low-key conclusion. “Work” has a dynamic feel with funky, growling horns contrasting with lighter passages. Among the other compositions, “Little Big Horse” is a highlight, with tricky hornwork developing a slinky melody over fine sounding bass and drums. This performance is kept fresh with an expressive solo for bass clarinet, developing a raw and potent feel. Performing compositions from a wide range of musicians in an interesting setting, this album proves to be very enjoyable and exciting. The Story This Time - amazon.com
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LUME - Xabregas 10 (Clean Feed, 2016) ****½
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