Benjamin Stapp | Ecstasis

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United States - New York

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Jazz: Progressive Jazz Jazz: Contemporary Jazz Moods: Instrumental
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by Benjamin Stapp

A precise and organic blend of written music, open ended improvisation and modern jazz.
Genre: Jazz: Progressive Jazz
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Painted Sharks
5:43 album only
2. Machu Picchu
5:22 album only
3. Don't Bop Your Head
7:04 album only
4. Dying Bumble Bees
6:49 album only
5. Once in Evora
6:59 album only
6. Negative Space
3:50 album only
7. Power Drop
6:02 album only
8. Sick Attachment
5:01 album only
9. Forgotten Scream
5:08 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
All About Jazz Review

By Troy Collins

It's a prime example of the new globalism. California-born tubist Ben Stapp graduated from UCLA, studied with English tuba master Roger Bobo overseas, then spent additional time studying in Portugal before returning home to record his debut album, Ecstasis. Demonstrating nimble dexterity and a keen melodic sense, the youthful Stapp holds his own in the heavyweight company of saxophonist Tony Malaby and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi.

Tuba driven small combos were a favored line-up of saxophonists Arthur Blythe and Sam Rivers during the seventies loft era; the tuba helped reestablish a historical connection between free jazz and the rich polyphony of early jazz styles such as Dixieland and ragtime. Stapp mostly avoids such pre-swing forms however, tending towards a slightly modal pan Asian aesthetic. Malaby's serpentine soprano and muscular tenor musings, Takeishi's scintillating Taiko influenced percussion and the leader's euphonious bass lines congeal into an exotic mosaic of plangent themes and soaring motifs. Modal structures notwithstanding, Stapp also works conventional chord changes, thorny counterpoint, and elastic rhythms into his tunefully accessible, yet harmonically intricate writing.

The trio vacillates between the written and improvised with poised authority and an empathetic rapport that blurs the line between freedom and form. Stapp's melodious variations complement Takeishi's ceremonial fanfares and kaleidoscopic accents, providing the trio with a harmonically solid, yet rhythmically fluid foundation that veers from buoyant to introspective. Malaby reigns in his extroverted tendencies, splitting his time evenly between soprano and tenor, while embellishing Stapp's memorable themes with lyrical restraint.

Despite the limited instrumental palette, Stapp utilizes an array of inventive arrangements to provide the trio with ample space for individual expression. Unaccompanied cadenzas, intimate duets and collective improvisation are all featured alongside more conventional devices, like hypnotic bass ostinatos and concise call and response, keeping the structures malleable and joyously unpredictable.

A credit to both the trio's conversational interplay and Stapp's resilient writing, the session flows with the graceful logic of a suite rather than a collection of disparate tunes. Ecstasis marks the solid debut of a fresh, new voice.

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Ben Stapp began his musical career at the age of 15 playing at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee Festival for three consecutive years. After touring with the Sacramento Youth Symphony in Italy, Venice, Germany, and Switzerland and placing in the All State Bands of California he went on to study with Tommy Johnson (voice of the Jaws' theme and many others) at UCLA. There he played in the top ensembles and was awarded a fellowship to play principal tuba in the Henri Mancini Orchestra. In LA he played and/or recorded with the Dakah Hip Hop Orchestra, Sal Cracchiolo and Bruce Fowler(trombonist for Frank Zappa). Before flying off to England where he would study with tuba legend Roger Bobo, Ben was selected to play at the International Tuba and Euphonium competition for Jazz in Hungary where he was a finalist. In England he played with the top ensembles and recorded as principal tubist with the RNCM Wind Ensemble for their CD release "Experiments on a March" (Chandos). He also played 2nd Tuba with RNCM wind ensemble and James Gourlay on "Tuba Tribute to Fletch." Ben then moved to Portugal where his talent was quickly discovered and he played in numerous euro/international festivals: Festival do Sodeste, Gulbenkian August Music Festival, Festival of New Music in Krems and the Barcelos Music Festival. He then played and recorded with Franz Hautzinger, Aneel Soomary, Alfred Gaal, Ritsche Koch, Mazen Kerbaj, Axel Dörner, Karl Ludwig Hübsch, Ralf Meinz on "Gomberg II Profile"; Mark Sanders, Alipio Neto, Alex Maguire; and was a special guest on "The Perfume Come Before the Flower"(Clean Feed), featuring Ken Filiano, Michael T.A. Thompson, Alipio Neto, and Herb Robertson. Radio Europa caught site of his explosive success and featured him with a 45 minute interview (in Portuguese) where he talked about his music and his life in Portugal. The interview also advertised his upcoming concerts at the Hot Clube and CCB with his new trio featuring Paulo Curado and Jorge Queijo. He has now recorded and released his trio with Tony Malaby and Satoshi Takeishi (Uqbar Music, BMI).



to write a review

Frederick Allen

Play That Tuba!!!
If a free jazz tuba player wants a record date, he's probably going to have to make his own, and that's what Ben Stapp has done on this excellent record. With the busiest tenor player of the day, Tony Malaby, in tow, Stapp has a great debut. Rather than play basslines, Stapp seems to concentrate on counsterpoint to Malaby's playing. Something different---I highly recommend it.