Jason Stein

Three Less Than Between

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Locksmith Isidore is bass clarinetist Jason Stein's trio, a free jazz ensemble that in some senses is well-heeled, and in others untethered. Bassist Jason Roebke has come into his own via many sideman gigs, establishing an in-demand sound among his peer group, while drummer Mike Pride makes rhythmic navigation sound altogether fun and interesting. Where Stein's strength lies is in his nimble way of getting into and through the many octave ranges of his instrument, at times amazingly so. Not beholden to its throaty bottom end, he has created a new language for the woodwind, quite an accomplishment considering very few play the horn, much less specialize in it. It is his fluency and confidence that carry him through this heady set of improvisationally based originals, some thematic, some conjured from pure thought. When you listen to the title track, you will be amazed at what Stein is fully capable of, extracting otherworldly vocal tones in all ranges, but especially the upper level, and in overtone fancies of flight. The ten minutes of zaniness for "Izn't Your Paper Clip," the stop-start, quicker and faster, on-and-off the pedal phrases of "Laced Up with Air," and the off-kilter Eric Dolphy-esque "Protection & Provocation" shows Stein has a range that belies mere so-called avant-garde tendencies. Then there's the relentless bop of "Amy Music" with it's solid/liquid center, the diving and jaunty attitude of "Augusta Gun" as the piece threatens to swing, but really refuses to, and the faux dirge of "Saved by a Straw" in a low-keyed mood. Roebke's free bass deliberations during "Future Lungs" sport a somber but soulful tone, tempered by the obtuse finger etchings he brings forward, while "Stevensesque" has the feeling of a forlorn, starkly romantic troubadour. Stein's voice is as well-defined as his imagination will allow, but on "Most Likely Illiterate" jokingly combines a diffuse theory with scatterbrained tangents that, curiously, lead to nowhere in particular. The beauty of this recording is in the acute listening skills the players employ, and that as relatively young musicians, they hold no boundaries or preconceived ideals. It is recommended that listeners take up the same approach to fully appreciate this extraordinary effort, the tip of the iceberg for Jason Stein's future projects.

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