Click here to [close]

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Jason Stein's Locksmith Isidore - A Calculus Of Loss (Clean Feed, 2008) ****

"Locksmith Isidore" is a trio consisting of Jason Stein on bass clarinet, Kevin Davis on cello and Mike Pride on percussion. Locksmith Isidore is also Jason Stein's grandfather, figuring on the cover. Stein has played on some real free albums in the past year, Bridge 61, with Ken Vandermark, Kyle Bruckman's Wrack and in Keefe Jackson's Project. Mike Pride received good marks from your servant for his "Scrambler" last year, because of his uncompromosing approach. Stein started playing clarinet only when he was twenty, obsessed as he became with jazz after listening to Monk and Dolphy. That fascination drove him to study music at Michigan University where he graduated. Kevin Davis was unknown to me, and appears to be an experimental and free jazz cellist now living in Chicago. His cello-playing on this album is mostly limited to pizzicato playing. The music the trio performs here is special. Their approach is light, open, with lots of space for the individual musicians. The first track is very gentle, with all three musicians outdoing themselves in the softness of their touch and the sparsity in the use of notes, as if they were a rare commodity, to be used with care and in rationed amounts. The second track is more assertive in tone, with stop-and-go rhythms, now aggressive, then plaintive wails coming from the bass clarinet, all improvised but with a strong unity and focus in the approach. Only the third track, "That's Not A Closet", has a more traditional structure : a joyful theme is expanded upon with some raw improvisation. The longest piece, "Caroline And Sam" starts with slow experimental sounds, one woven on top of the other, more avant-garde than jazz, but gradually, ever so slowly, the cello starts playing some gentle and graceful arpeggios, accentuated by light vibe sounds, as a fragile lullaby. And that's probably the strength of Stein's musical approach : he loves sounds and he loves silence and he loves intimacy and the possibilities of free forms. Yet the trio does not shy away from intense interplay either, as they demonstrate on the fifth track, on which Davis plays arco, competing with Stein in shrillness of sound and both with Pride in some rapid machine gun interaction, but never (totally) out of control, using intensity to emphasize the contrast with the soft underbelly of their improv. The last track is again in a fully composed form, unisono even, sweet and nice, fading out in 30 seconds of absolute silence, resigned. A young band with a great musical vision and strong emotional approach.