Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

JASON STEIN’S LOCKSMITH ISIDORE – A calculus of loss (CF 104)
This trio’s peculiar denomination comes from Isidore Stein, Jason’s paternal grandfather who used to be a master locksmith in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan for over 30 years and didn’t trust the banks, keeping earnings stuffed in a sofa (he was right, by the way). Also rather uncommon is the group’s instrumentation which comprises the leader’s bass clarinet, Kevin Davis’ cello and Mike Pride’s percussion. Another intriguing factor is Jason Stein’s beginning as a rock-blues guitarist, subsequently shifting his love onto his current instrument after having met Eric Dolphy’s music, a great influence on his artistic vision. Locksmith Isidore can appear as based in some tradition one moment, swing and jazzy phrasing emerging from the cauldron of decontextualization, then switch to ferruginous EAI protuberances in the next (“Caroline and Sam” could very well be one of those slippery incidental meetings of scrape-and-scratch stillness and minimal melodic fragmentation). The playing is attentive, responsive on all fronts, never transcending to that semi-fetishist rigour that often prevents even gifted instrumentalists to express their timbral qualities in the name of a growingly abused concept of quietness. The conversational openings constantly remain under the sign of democracy, exacerbations of attitude and egotism not allowed; confrontations do happen, but are instantly directed towards a common goal, typically coincident with a non-deterioration of the musical virtues of the improvisations. Immediacy is not this ensemble’s forte: the almost reclusive character of the large part of the material (let’s exclude the short finale “J.H. 01”, a thoroughly lyrical signature if there was ever one) recalls Isidore’s obstinate tendency to hide money in the couch. In this record, the richness of particulars is equally ably disguised.

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