Saturday, November 26, 2011

Jason Stein: The Story This Time

Jason Stein (clarinet)
The Story This Time (Delmark; 2011)
Keefe Jackson (sax)
Joshua Abrams (bass)
Frank Rosaly (drums)

I know Jason Stein's work more through the projects he has been a member of than his solo material. He has worked with Ken Vnadermark, Rob Mazurek and Keefe Jackson to name a few. His main instrument is bass clarinet. Stein has a style that is big and with an ability to move up and down the scale with ease, he creates a joyful and adventurous atmosphere with each recording.

Stein is quickly becoming an in-demand member as well as confident leader in the Chicago scene since landing there just under half a decade ago. Stein plays rare instrument in genre, but it is coming back in fashion thanks to strong creative performances and releases like his latest, The Story This Time (Delmark).

From the opening, "Background Music" (written by Warne Marsh), you can hear that Stein is out to change things. His tone and the nature of piece has a pile-driver force to it. Almost making it unrecognizable to the original Warne Marsh/Lee Konitz piece. The quartet display a sense of urgency all the while deploying some intricate improvising.

"Little Big Horse" is killer. Stein's seems to have learned a bit from his time with Vandermark about chord changes, timing and orchestration within his own group. There's a Dolphy-esque quality to the performance but you can hear the group bristling with life as the piece moves forward.

"Badlands" has an enveloping quality to it. Abrams bassline capture you at the gut just before then Jackson and Stein come crashing in like theme from Route 66 (U.S. early '60s TV show). Frank Rosaly's timing is to perfection with free-wheeling exchanges with both Jackson and Stein. Stein soon takes over the piece with a number spontaneous jump cuts and fluctuating patterns. It's all really amazing to hear and commands your full attention.

"Hoke's Dream" is definitely the more experimental piece on the album. The composition lays squarely on Stein as he improvises through a number a changes while Rosaly adds unabashed clings and clangs for full effect. Abrams and  Jackson join in towards the end to provide colour and tone but this is clearly a lead into free form that works perfectly in the Monk composition "Work." "Work" I think is a re-imagining of "Nice Work If You Can Get It" and feels completely pulled apart and reassembled into a dark free formed nightmare. I loved it!

The Story This Time is another bullet out of the Chicago scene that must be heard by a wider audience. Jason Stein has proven in just a short amount of time that scene and all of its many musicians have a lot to contribute. And each has their own voice that is distinct and bursting with ideas. The Story This Time is brilliant and invigorating.

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