Jason Stein’s Locksmith Isidore – After Caroline (2018)

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During a career that’s propelled him to the upper echelon of Chicago’s vibrant improvised music scene, Jason Stein is doing for the bass clarinet what Steve Lacy had done for the soprano sax. By looking forward while never losing sight of tradition, he’s modeled himself after the paths of jazz innovators before him to forge his own track. And for the last decade, his primary vehicle for blazing trails has been his Locksmith Isidore band, a nimble little combo that only has bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Mike Pride alongside him to sketch out his art. But that’s all Stein needs.

Stein has certainly kept busy with numerous other projects but After Caroline issued earlier this year is the first from this dynamic trio since Three Kinds of Happiness and that was in 2010. It feels as though there was never any pause, though, and the three get after it right away: “As Many Chances As You Need” is Stein pondering over an aggressively odd time signature, growing in agitation until it’s time to return to theme at conclusion. That’s much the same way this record ends with the rockin’, stompin’ “We Gone” (video above).

In between we get “Eckhart Park,” which is some vintage avant-garde that one could have heard from Stein’s quartet, less reedman Keefe Jackson by his side. As Stein goes into solo mode, check the lively interaction with Pride’s drums, while Roebke keeps the harmonic progression nailed down. Roebke himself gets his own spotlight, a groove-centered delight.

The boys go completely free for “Ida Like,” and it’s within this unstructured setting where Stein really shows his mastery of this notorious beast of a horn, wresting out sounds from the full range of it with effortless dexterity. “Sternum” is another free association gathering but this time, Stein is much more ruminative, even blowing false notes into his bass clarinet. And the unsettling “Walden’s Thing” begins with a head but Stein is clearly champing at the bit to blow with abandon and when he does, Pride is there to egg him on before he goes full-on soloing himself.

John Coltrane’s “26-2” gets a pretty straight reading here, with Stein’s liquid bop lines drawing a line back to Charlie Parker (who after all wrote this song’s forbear, “Confirmation”). “You Taught Me How To Love” features Pride on brushes, showing a tender side appropriate for this paean to Caroline, Stein’s grandmother who passed just as this album was being recorded.

The return of Locksmith Isidore is a welcome one because these guys don’t slouch for a second in taking on Jason Stein’s challenging material. After Caroline is now on sale from all the major online outlets via Northern Spy Records.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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