When it feels right, stick with it…and keep digging.
Rosetta Trio has done just that, and on Thwirl they achieve a breakthrough of their own.
Crump brought together Rosetta Trio for the first time in 2005 to record an album of pieces written in the aftermath of 9/11. That “engaging and sublime meeting” (Signal to Noise) of Crump on acoustic bass with guitarists Liberty Ellman and Jamie Fox, produced Rosetta (2006), which was greeted enthusiastically by fans, radio, and the press. “Here is a string ensemble for the new century!” raved All About Jazz NY. Their second album, Reclamation (2010), declared “a low-key marvel” (JazzTimes) and noted for its “bareness in emotion” (NPR), was much more than a follow-up effort, though it was the earlier album that gave the trio its name and its mission: to inhabit the dynamic and rhythmic flexibility of a drumless ensemble and embrace its challenges and expanded responsibilities; to reject restrictions of genre; to explore different territories of feel, texture, color; to groove. Recorded after eight years of collaboration and on the heels of a two-week European tour, Thwirl captures Rosetta Trio not only at peak telepathy, but charting new territories of shape and feel.
The opening piece, “Ending,” is a meditation initiated by Crump’s resonant unaccompanied bass and through which the trio emerges into the album. The cinematic “Reclamation Zone,” whose particular cadence represents an accomplishment that took the band years to achieve, is inspired by artful, green repurposing of many New York City post-industrial zones. The lovely, laconic “He Runs Circles” is inspired by Crump’s youngest son’s pre-verbal manner of showing affection by circling around his father.
The vision of a steady, quiet, but heavy snowfall is the basis for the cascading “Whiteout,” while the title track, “Thwirl,” is tricky, playful, and off-kilter…another triumph in feel that took time to discover. After all that work, “Still Stolid,” an older piece from Crump’s Tuckahoe album, feels like sliding into a well-worn saddle for an easy ride. “Conversate (talking-wise),” Fox’s first piece for the trio, is a moving exercise in group interplay…a perfect example of his unique compositional voice, while also fitting the trio perfectly.
The oceanic “Flotsam,” an underwater mobile of carefully balanced gestures, was originally intended for the Rosetta album, but required the trio’s deepening touch to render just so. “Palimpsestic” is a pointillistic, architecturally-inspired piece written for an eponymous concert series at the beloved, intimate Barbès venue in Brooklyn, site of the trio’s very first performance. The album concludes with “Steel Skin & Sky,” a dreamy, sky-gazing ode inspired by a New York Times Magazine photo essay on the elite cadre of steel workers whose final touch is needed to coax giant beams gently into place high above the city streets.
In Crump’s own words: “This album feels like an arrival for the trio…at the least, a snapshot of a special period of breakthrough on our journey. Although the group’s chemistry was immediate upon our first gatherings, there are subtleties and depth now to the way the band functions, the way we feel the music together, that could come only from years of work. It’s as though, now, the trio is it’s own entity. Perhaps, then, this could be a sort of final statement for the band, but I can just as easily see it continue to grow in a number of a rich directions. We’ll see…”