Jazzgram review by Alain Drouot

Jason Stein’s Locksmith Isidore – Three Less Than Between (CF 153)
Jazz musicians who focus exclusively on the bass clarinet are rare: Todd Marcus (on the East Coast), Denis Colin (in Paris, France), and Rudi Mahall (in Berlin, Germany) come to mind. But Chicago can also boast to be the home (since 2005) of one such artist, Jason Stein. As a member of Kyle Bruckmann’s Wrack, Keefe Jackson’s Project Project or Ken Vandermark’s Bridge 61, Stein has clearly been associated with the North Side free jazz scene. But like many of his peers he is not that easy to pigeonhole as can testify his own project, Locksmith Isidore. This is the second album by this trio which also includes fellow Chicago bass player Jason Roebke and New York drummer Mike Pride. To this day, the obvious reference for the bass clarinet remains the great Eric Dolphy. However, Stein’s music and style owes a debt to another colossus, Ornette Coleman. The clarinetist’s idea is to aim for a dual approach that encompasses abstraction and swing. And the drummer’s and bassist’s roles can be viewed as divided along those lines. Pride, who has acquired a solid reputation as a madman, shows a different side here. He harnesses his energy to provide a powerful drive. On the other hand, Roebke’s playing could not be further from a walking bass. The string player is more interested in phrasing jagged lines or working on textures that will provide a stark backdrop (he also takes a few impressive and muscular solos). This emboldens Stein who can take a pretty and frail melody (“Stevenesque”) and deconstruct it as he sees fit. Elsewhere, he takes a more direct approach to explore timbres and tones. Doing so, the clarinetist is carving a place for himself in the bass clarinet brotherhood.

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