CD Review: Jason Stein - Lucille!
Jason Stein – Bass clarinet
Keefe Jackson – Contrabass clarinet and tenor saxophone
Joshua Abrams – Bass
Tom Rainey – Drums
Label: Delmark Records
Bass clarinetist Jason Stein pays tribute to roots of modern jazz on his sixth release as a leader, Lucille! He and his quartet interpret pieces by such master innovators as pianists Thelonious Monk and Lennie Tristano and saxophonists Charlie Parker and Warne Marsh. Stein also contributes handful of boppish originals to this intriguing album.
Perhaps the most unique of these compositions is the mystical and pensive “I Knew You Were”. It features Stein’s flittering lines float over bassist Josh Abrams expectant con arco drone and drummer Tom Rainey’s splashing cymbals and resonant beats. The captivating ambience transforms from quiet melancholy to passionate, contemplation with a stimulating and delightfully dissonant ensemble improvisation.
Equally provocative is Stein’s “Wow”. On it reedman Keefe Jackson, who on this recording doubles on tenor saxophone and contrabass clarinet, and Stein alternate spontaneous and intelligent phrases. Each embellishes the melody in his own divergent yet, complementary way. Abrams and Raney contribute percolating rhythms that buoy and propel the front-line performance.
The band’s take on Monk’s “Little Rootie Tootie” is singularly imaginative. The track opens with four angular and simultaneous solos. The various monologues of honks and screams, thrums and thuds include fragments of the standard and coalesce into a thrilling conclusion that is a restatement of the main theme.
The seamless camaraderie among the four musicians is best heard on bassist Robert Hurst’s “Roused About”. Rainey’s galloping bursts duet with Stein’s reverberating, atonal lines as they start off on a blustery tone. The exuberant collective extemporization remains true to Hurst’s spirit and thrills with its ardent gusto and brilliant eloquence.
With Lucille! Stein has crafted a captivating and elegant work. Both when playing his own music or reconstructing standards, he and his group maintain conceptual unity and creative excitement. The disc is a high point in Stein’s uniformly superb output.