Jason Stein’s Locksmith Isidore | Three Kinds of Happiness | Not Two Records

Not Two, 2010 | MW 846-2 | CD

Jason Stein – bass clarinet | Jason Roebke – bass | Mike Pride – drums

Recorded October 15&16, 2009 at The Shape Shoppe, Chicago IL, except track #8 recorded at the Alchemia, Krakow, Poland, September 20, 2008. Recorded and mixed by Griffin Rodriguez. Mastered by Rafal Drewniany. Artwork by Jonathan Crawford.

Tracklist: 1. Crayons For Sammy [06:50] 2. Cash, Couch And Camper [09:06] 3. Little Bird 4. Ground Floor South [07:20] 5. Arch And Shipp [09:17] 6. More Gone Door Gone [07:18] 7. Man Or Ray [06:10] 8. Miss Izzy [08:47]

I’m super excited for this album to come out.

It’s kind of a new beginning for this band, with more of a focus on stylized composition and improvistion. Roebke and Pride sound amazing. This record is definitely our best work yet. — Jason Stein

Stein stands apart from the standard instrumental lineage.

Whereas a player like Eric Dolphy or Michel Portal builds on wide intervallic leaps and verticality, Stein (like Michel Pilz, Rudi Mahall or John Tchicai) operates in a horizontal fashion, favoring a breadth of twists and turns more sideways than anything else, woven into a post-Ornette fabric. — Clifford Allen , All About Jazz

Stein, Roebke, and Pride

fed on the chamber-like intensity of the sparsely intimate space with a brilliantly tight set. — Michael Jackson, Downbeat, September 2010

Jason Stein

There are several ways one might interpret the title

of this latest venture by Jason Stein’s trio known as Locksmith Isidore, Three Kinds of Happiness. One might be to refer to the ancient Hindu philosophical and spiritual text, the Bhagavad-Gita, which proclaims there are three kinds of happiness, but two of them are deceptive and ultimately destructive; only growth from negative to positive awareness is true happiness. Another could focus on what psychologist Martin Seligman has characterized as pleasure, engagement, and meaning, that is, two subjective and one objective states of being. Then, in the notebooks of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, there is the statement “Only a man who lives not in time but in the present is happy,” which would suggest a division of the recognition and appreciation of experience – one possible definition of happiness – into that of, for better or worse, the past, present, and/or future. I can’t say for certain what Jason Stein, Jason Roebke, and Mike Pride had in mind, but from the evidence at hand, I have a feeling that there’s something related to each of these perspectives at work in this album, which may prove to be a significant one in the evolution of this band.

Of course, trios in contemporary jazz inevitably function as cooperative ensembles, especially those which emphasize spontaneous interaction to develop and define the music. But while each of the musicians has a hand in the details of performance, Jason Stein is primarily responsible for the direction and identity of Locksmith Isidore. The band’s name is an homage to Stein’s grandfather, and implies an emotional connection to family roots as well as a symbolic inference to one who works with and ultimately obtains a mastery over images of safety and security, concepts normally alien to an improvisational point of view. But if, as the album title suggests, there is more than one kind of happiness, change is necessary to discover its full potential. Where the trio previously devoted itself to a variety of improvisational strategies. Stein has now introduced compositions which set the musicians into more traditionally-minded, chord-constructed formats. It seems as if these new challenges were motivated by more than just musical considerations, and the corresponding nature of the song titles do reflect a familial extension to his creative perspective. Among the titles are veiled references to other family members – “Crayons for Sammy” is about his younger brother, “More Gone Door Gone” is a cryptic reference to his step-brother Morgan – and memories from his past, such as “Cash, Couch, and Camper,” referring to an anecdote concerning his grandparents.

Jason Roebke

While there’s nothing in particular about the music that is meant to be evocative or programmatic – certainly, the pleasure that the music offers is in no way dependent upon knowing Stein’s deep sources – some speculation on how the music was created may enhance the listener’s appreciation of it. That is to say. the role and function of memory in an improvisational art is an open question; how does the artist’s relationship to the past – their own past, or the music’s past – affect what they create in the here and now? As an instrumentalist who started relatively late in life, aged 20, and began not with “conventional” music lessons but an attraction to free jazz and the choice of an uncommon instrument, the bass clarinet, at that. Stein’s musical memory has been specific and self-contained. And Wittgenstein’s point echoes the position of improvisation as music embedded in the present moment, music with, conceptually, no past or future. Stein’s solo album. In exchange For A Process, and the two previous Locksmith direction in the immediacy of free improvisation.

But, Wittgenstein notwithstanding, personal memory may provide a source of happiness and, in addition, a source of inspiration. And, as the Bhagavad-Gita proposes, happiness results from an individual’s positive growth, a change which may come from a renewed and revitalized understanding of the past as much as an anticipation of future developments. Improvisation acknowledges individual personality as it appears in sound – the freedom to create spontaneously, motivated by stimuli as varied as the material one chooses, instrumental technique, formal design, response to new circumstances, intellectual ideas, and, neither most important nor least, pure emotion. Stein’s growth as a musician has been closely tied to a conscious effort to maximize each of these elements, as well as his experiences within the broad range of musical styles the Chicago scene offers, ranging from noise-rock bands to updated swing maneuvers and free-form experiments. So it’s only natural that the new musical directions which he has acknowledged in Three Kinds of Happiness are based upon his expanding musical resources, and the same individual impulse that draws upon the memories of his family inspires his desire to probe the nuances of the jazz tradition, attempting to make an original statement without merely covering standard tunes. It’s not just the references to family members or puns in the song titles that reveal this – “Arch and Shipp” recasting Archie Shepp (but not necessarily Matthew Shipp), and “Man or Ray” as a take on Joe Maneri (and, again, not necessarily the artist Man Ray) – but the commitment of the trio to explore Stein’s growing vision for Locksmith Isidore.

Mike Pride

So we have Roebke’s bass establishing the bluesy environment of “More Gone Door Gone,” with Stein’s bass clarinet adopting the vocal role of loosely tonal testimony, searching for the spirit behind the familiar form. “Crayons for Sammy” taps into a freeboppish swing, the chordal base again altered by Stein’s microtones and hints of Dolphyesque jutting intervals affecting the contour and fantasy of the line, spurred on by Roebke’s momentum and Pride’s infectious brushwork (a recurring treat throughout the program). Are the accumulated small details that introduce and gradually cohere into the strolling “Couch, Cash, and Camper” related in any way to Stein’s memory of his grandfather amassing cash in a couch? It doesn’t matter, any more than if Shepp’s textural tenor sax variations influenced “Arch and Shipp” or Maneri’s unfettered exuberance inspired the whirlwind force behind “Man or Ray.” There’s now room in Locksmith Isidore’s stylistic repertoire for these new options – adopted forms associated with the music’s collective memory – without lessening the group’s intuitive intensity or independence, as the live “bonus” tracks show. After all, the “Miss” in “Miss Izzy” is not a form of address but a verb – via the memory of a lost loved one – which translates emotion into action and unleashes the band’s potency and imagination.

Among some of the details I’ve used in these notes, Jason Stein also related to me the fact that he approached this program intending to highlight the bass clarinet in a “jazz format” -not specifically free jazz, but jazz in the manner of group support and interaction, and “…as a sort of reappropriation of the jazz heritage. This record is a jazz bass clarinet record.” So it is, and a revealing and rewarding one at that. Three Kinds of Happiness? At least. — Art Lange, Chicago, June 2010



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