I recently picked up the new jazz album titled “Land Grab,” by bassist/composer Sam Trapchak, and it certainly grabbed my attention. The first track, “Pterofractal,” wastes no time in settling into a groove: Greg Ward, playing alto saxophone, opens it up with a few short Bird-like phrases, and the driving beat, lead by Trapchak on bass and Christian Coleman on drums, makes itself known by the 5 second mark. It really feels like a “land grab,” in that the ensemble reaches out and pulls in the listener with a sense of urgency. Tom Chang on guitar enters with a solo, then hands back the control to Ward on sax. During these two solo stretches, though, it’s Trapchak’s bass that pulses throughout. But what is a “Pterofractal?” A “pterodactyl” is the common term for what most people consider a winged dinosaur, but in fact it was a flying reptile that lived during the age of the dinosaurs, for whatever that’s worth. A “fractal” is a never-ending pattern that is created by repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing feedback loop. Now this title is starting to make more sense, as Trapchak’s bass line would seem to fit this description.
I’m attracted to the 2nd song, “Lumpy’s Blues,” for two reasons: one, it’s simply a great song, and has a strong driving beat just like “Pterofractal.” But my second reason is a bit more unusual – the title – “Lumpy’s Blues” – how many people can actually say they have a friend nicknamed “Lumpy?” It would seem an odd coincidence that I would get this album around the same time that I saw my friend Lumpy for the first time in 20 years.
The track titled “Beautiful/Furious” starts off in a curious way, nearly a minute of quiet little notes, light tapping of the drums, a few base lines, and then slowly builds up to the three minute mark, where the “furious” part of the title kicks in. Tom Chang’s guitar solo adds the intensity, on top of which Greg Ward lets out some Ornette-Coleman-like wails and then settles into his own extended solo.
Sam Trapchak was born in Livonia, Michigan, and took up the double bass after being accepted into the jazz studies program at Wayne State University in Detroit. He won successive scholarships while enrolled there, and freelanced throughout the Metro-Detroit/Windsor area. In 2007, Sam was awarded a full scholarship to continue his jazz studies at William Paterson University in New Jersey. Sam now lives and works in NYC. If you’re in the NYC area in August, you can hear Trapchak play with a trio at Dominies Hoek in Astoria (see calendar dates here). For more information on Trapchak and his music, check out his website here.