Jason Stein Quartet

Sept. 1 - 2012

Okay, time to take a special jazz festival listener’s poll. Name your favorite bass clarinetist who leads his own band and has a terrific album to show for it. There’s a catch: It can’t be someone who doubles on the instrument. It has to be a full-time bass clarinetist.

Well, that didn’t take long. The top voter-getter (and, OK, the only vote-getter) is Chicago’s own Jason Stein. But his 2011 album, The Story This Time, we hasten to say, is brilliant for reasons that go far beyond his choice of instrument. Stein is an all-around creative force to be reckoned with.

He had been on people’s radar as leader of the Locksmith Isidore trio and a member of Ken Vandermark’s Bridge 61 quartet. But The Story, which made numerous Top 10 lists, was a real breakthrough. Stein’s remarkably intuitive quartet – featuring tenor saxophonist Keefe Jackson, bassist Joshua Abrams and drummer Frank Rosaly – mix striking originals with inspired treatments of songs from the ’40s and ’50s by Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh and their genius mentor Lennie Tristano. “There’s a bright buoyancy to their simultaneous lines, a kind of swooping bebop cool that’s underpinned by the intense focus required to avoid midair collisions,” wrote Reader critic Peter Margasak. If you’ve ever wanted to hear aural loop-the-loops, this is the place to go.

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