Sound It Out: “20 Questions” #7 — Stephan Crump

Another installment of the recurring “Sound It Out: 20 Questions” feature on, with an artist answering a survey inspired by the famous Proust Questionnaire…

Bassist-composer Stephan Crump was born in 1972 and raised in the great music town of Memphis, into a creative family: his Parisian mother an amateur pianist and his native Tennessean father an architect, pianist and jazz drummer. Stephan grew up a fan of the city’s grand tradition of rhythm & blues, along with being enamored by such jazz natives as virtuoso pianist Phineas Newborn Jr. The bassist moved to New York City in the mid-’90s, soon making friends with pianist Vijay Iyer, who would become a longtime collaborator. Stephan records and tours the world in Iyer’s hit trio with drummer Marcus Gilmore, as well as in other Iyer groups, including his all-star sextet (which has a new ECM album, Far From Over). Stephan has also collaborated extensively with his wife, singer Jen Chapin, as well as in duo projects with guitarist Mary Halvorson (Secret Keeper), saxophonist Steve Lehman and pianist James Carney. As a bandleader, Stephan has worked with his own Rosetta Trio, featuring guitarists Liberty Ellman and Jamie Fox; the trio has recorded three albums: Thwirl (2013), Reclamation (2010) and Rosetta Trio (2005), with a fourth in the making. The Rosetta Trio performed in the Sound It Out series in November 2013. The bassist’s newest band is Rhombal, which released the eponymous Rhombal album late last year. Stephan returns to Sound It Out to lead this quartet – featuring veteran saxophonist Ellery Eskelin, trumpeter Adam O’Farrill (son of Arturo and grandson of Chico) and young drummer Kassa Overall – in concert on October 6, 2017. DownBeat said about Rhombal, aptly: “Crump’s music is original, so you don’t spend time spotting the influences. It also feels lived-in and warm… This group plays complex music freely, easily and memorably.” — BB

  1. What was the first jazz album you fell in love with and stayed in love with?

Harlem Blues by Phineas Newborn Jr.

  1. What do you think is one of the most overrated jazz albums ever?

Don’t get me started, ha ha…  

  1. What’s one of your all-time favorite non-jazz albums?

So, so many… But here’s one: Rejuvenation by The Meters.

  1. What’s the last album you listened to from beginning to end – and did you like it?

The Immortal Mississippi John Hurt by Mississippi John Hurt. Of course, I liked it – it’s Mississippi John Hurt!

  1. What’s your favorite film score?

Talk to Her is a fine example. I love a good film score, and I love scoring. Quite a few of my pieces are inspired by film, although not necessarily the music. For instance, “Rosetta,” from the first Rosetta Trio album, was inspired by a Dardenne brothers film by the same name.

  1. What was the most recent concert – of any genre – that made you fall in love with music all over again?

Just the other night, at National Sawdust in Brooklyn, I heard a suite of solo piano pieces written by my friend Kris Davis. It was a complete trip, because the pieces sounded like Kris, but they were performed, with great touch and feel, by pianist Rory Cowal. Then Kris came up and played immediately afterward with her quintet (plus one). It was a layered experience…

  1. Which are your very favorite and least favorite venues for live music?

The Village Vanguard – I like it. The Iridium – me no like (really liked the old location, though).

  1. What’s your favorite quote about music?

“A wrong note that is played out of élan, you hear it differently than one that is played out of fear.” — Hélène Grimaud

  1. If you could have a drink with any late visual artist of the past, who would it be?

Auguste Rodin.

  1. What are the top three tools of your trade?

My booty, my heart, my mind.

  1. What’s your most indispensable piece of technology that isn’t music-oriented?

My fridge… or maybe my bicycle. Nah, my fridge.

  1. What are your top media sources of writing/opinion/news about music?

I can’t say I follow any. I mostly read novels and poetry. For news news, I mainly go to The New York Times, The New Yorker and NPR.

  1. What non-musical/non-technological quality is most important to being an enduringly creative musician?

Compassion and curiosity.

  1. What living person do you most admire – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most admire?

My wife, Jen Chapin, for many reasons, but perhaps especially her sense for humanity and its potential.

  1. What living person do you most despise – and what one quality he or she has that you most despise?

Pretty much all Republicans, but especially the Paul Ryan sort, who manage to convince people with their veneer of actually caring.

  1. What’s your favorite place in the world?

In a deep groove.

  1. If you could live in another time period, when would that be?

Just a bit previously, so I could have had at least a chance at playing on a Donny Hathaway session.

  1. What book would you most like to read again?

I’m always in a book, and there are so many I love. At the same time, I haven’t been looking back so much to re-read, as I feel there are so many great ones out there that I haven’t yet discovered. One that recently knocked me out was The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

  1. What film haven’t you seen that you feel like you should?

Most of the ones that aren’t on an airplane…I’m missing so many good ones these days! I’d like to see Dunkirk, among the more recent ones. I had a great uncle who was part of the D-Day landing, and my mother was born in Paris during the Nazi occupation, so there’s certainly a personal connection I feel to those stories.

  1. What aspect of the past do you miss most – and what’s one thing you look forward to about the future that doesn’t exist?

I miss the days before smartphones. And look forward to flying basses…