Stephan Crump’s Rosetta Trio – ‘Outliers’ (Album Review)

Stephan Crump has an impressive resume. In just the past two years, the bassist has been a part of mesmerizing feats of collective improvisation (Planktonic Finales with Ingrid Laubrock and Cory Smythe) and one of the most impressive post-bop outfits in modern jazz (Far From Over with the Vijay Iyer Sextet). Much of Crump’s work as a sideman and collaborator shows that he works extremely well in a free and spontaneous context. Despite this, throughout the years Crump’s Rosetta Trio has shown the strength of the other, more traditionally structured side of his talent.

Outliers comes off the back of fifteen years of the Rosetta Trio, which features Liberty Ellman (acoustic guitar) and Jamie Fox (electric guitar). It’s the group’s fourth album and the quality on display shows that the trio have not lost the connection that made records like Recollection such an interesting listen. The band has a warm, slightly bluesy and folksy sound that distinguishes it from the rest of Crump’s work. The approachable beauty of Outliers makes it one of the most immediately accessible Crump projects.

Crump wrote all of the compositions of Outliers, but he is not one to hog the spotlight. The trio often puts an emphasis on interplay, with the album’s title track providing a great example of their strong chemistry. Throughout “Outliers”, the musicians are almost never in synch, yet never sound out of place. A combination of spiky abrupt lines and skillful improvisation fills and creates the gaps of an interesting jigsaw puzzle of a composition. The following tune, “Synapse”, undergoes a major shift in focus after the first two minutes. The beginning is split, at times featuring a hectic passage anchored by a groovy bass line and in others slipping into a smoother portion filled with intricate acoustic picking and beautiful electric chords. After this, both guitarists are given ample time to show off their chops, trading off impressively rapid solos as if one was challenging the other.

Some of the best moments of Outliers, like “Esquima Dream” (last heard in on Crump’s 2016 quartet album, Rhombal), come when the trio is playing with pace, but the band also shines during more introspective pieces. “Dec 5”, is a mellow song with a hypnotizing motif and brilliant solos from both guitarists. “Away From, A Way To” is full of graceful dexterous playing built around a gorgeous motif established in the laid-back opening minutes. The motif, which has a simple captivating melody that straddles the emotional line between a somber and happy nostalgia, is one of the finest themes of the record. Even though some portions of Outliers may leave listeners who are looking for something more abrasive or abstract wanting more, the album does a great job of showing a more conventional yet still complex side to Crump’s compositional style. Longtime fans of the trio will not be disappointed and its rich inviting sound is sure to gain them more than a few new ones.

Outliers, the new album from Stephan Crump’s Rosetta Trio, is out now on Papillon Sounds.

Liberty Ellman • acoustic guitar
Jamie Fox • electric guitar
Stephan Crump • acoustic bass

produced by Stephan Crump

a Papillon Sounds production

all music by Stephan Crump
© 2019 Crumbletones Music BMI
except Cryoseism by Liberty Ellman
© 2019 Substance Theory SESAC