Steve Swallow/Ohad Talmor Sextet: L'Histoire du Clochard (The Bum's Tale) (2004)
L'Histoire du Clochard just avoids drowsiness thanks to an unmistakable note of wry playfulness throughout. The musicianship is nearly unassailable, though I am no great fan of electric bass. Swallow's five-string instrument gives him considerable range, but not much warmth, and at times he sounds more like a guitarist who has lost all but one string. The conscious use of instrumentation mirroring Stravinsky's "Soldier's Tale" gives this music a decidedly classical vibe.
Perhaps the real hero here is arranger Ohad Talmor, who is presumably to thank for the lovely voicings of horns and violin that give the record a large part of its value. On "Ladies in Mercedes," a trumpet/violin call-and-response vamp opening provides the liveliest moment on the disc, leading to a light-as-paper bossa nova run for a lively clarinet solo. L'Histoire du Clochard is pleasant late-summer listening.
Track Listing: Making Ends Meet; Sweeping Up; Chelsea Bells; Some Echoes; Ladies in Mercedes; Hullo Bolinas; I'm Your Pal.
Personnel: Steve Swallow: bass; Chad Talmor: tenor saxophone; Russ Johnson: trumpet; Meg Okura: violin; Greg Tardy: clarinet; Jacob Garchik: trombone.
Record Label: Palmetto Records
Style: Modern Jazz