Sam Trapchak – Land Grab (2015)

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Sam Trapchak is back. The Michigan-bred, New York-based bassist returns with his second album five years after the first one, Lollipopocalypse, a quartet album made with Arthur Vint on drums, Tom Chang on guitar and Greg Ward manning the alto sax.

Trapchak has gone through some changes over this last half-decade, getting married and starting a family. But when he returned to leading a date, he again turned to Chang and Ward (Christian Coleman replaces Vint on drums). This quartet getup works well with Trapchak, who has two accomplished improvisers at his disposal, and has created enough sonic space for himself to effectively take on an accompanist role where the piano might go.

Land Grab (now on sale through Raw Toast Records), has much of the same things going for it that Lollipopocalypse did, breathing fresh air into a hundred year old music form, and the dynamism heard throughout this record couldn’t have come from septgeneriums. One track even combines two tried-and-true music forms — Chicago Blues and bop — into a compelling Frankenstein (“Lumpy’s Blues”). At the same time, that track is the exception. The rule is, Sam Trapchak’s composing and arranging style gelling into a unique voice.

I’ll go straight to the last, titular track to make that point. “Land Grab” starts off with Ward’s pure-toned soliloquy and then Chang’s guitar signals the beginning of a groove that runs that rest of the performance. Through it, Sam Trapchak is the rock, setting and then ever discreetly shifting the parameters around which the other three play largely freely within. Yes, that includes Coleman, who sometimes steps up front to act as the third soloist.

The variance in intensity so wonderfully modulated there is contrasted by the abruptness in attitude change on “Beautiful/Furious,” and it’s easy to discern how Trapchak came up with the title of that song. The “beautiful” part comes in the beginning, some celestial vibes that nonetheless have a current of tension running underneath it. It bursts open after three minutes into a furious side, led by Chang’s gruff, rocking demeanor. Angular, lively rim work eventually leads the band into freer territory by the end. “Pterofractal” is bop taken to a more modern place. Chang wrings out a rough ‘n’ ready rock tone — often a distinguishing feature of this album– but his note patterns strongly suggests the jazz tradition. Trapchak leads the song into a different chord progression expressly for Ward’s limber solo.

Using mostly the same personnel as before, Sam Trapchak picks right up where he left off from five years ago. If you like Lollipopocalypse — and you should — there’s no reason why you wouldn’t enjoy Land Grab as well.

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