Steve Swallow with Robert Creeley: So There (2006)
Steve Swallow goes for a varied approach on So There, combining string quartets, piano and bass, all of this inspired by the poetry of Robert Creeley, one of the most important American poets. This is his second release inspired by Creeley's poetry; in 1980 Swallow and Kuhn (and vocalist Sheila Jordan) released Home on ECM.
So There is mostly a quiet and thoughtful affair, and the performances feature close interplay between Swallow and pianist Joachim Kuhn, with the Cikada String Quartet on one side and Creeley's readings on the other. His voice has a removed, ethereal quality, while the musicians provide a varied background for it.
Swallow recorded Creeley's readings and then travelled to Oslo, where he recorded the music with Kuhn and the Cikada Quartet. These readings were the last recordings by Robert Creeley, who passed away while the album was still underway. Cikada's string sections sound like unclassifiable film noir melodies, often interrupting the narative of Kuhn and Swallow's playing. When it comes to these two, there's no way of telling who is inspiring whom, as both artists provide stimulating support for each other. They are both inspired accompanists and fantastic soloists.
The music is often lyrical, and the communication between the artists is astounding. So There is a simply brilliant and emotionally complex album, a unique synthesis of poetry and music and a final testimony of Creeley's poetry.
Track Listing: Oh No; Names; Here Again; Ambition; Indians; from Histoire De Florida; Sufi Sam Christian; Later; from Wellington, New Zealand / from Eight Plus; Miles; Just in Time; Return; Echo; Sad Advice; Riddle; Blue Moon; I Know a Man; A Valentine for Pen.
Personnel: Steve Swallow: bass; Robert Creeley: voice; Steve Kuhn: piano; The Cikada String Quartet: Henrik Hannisdal: violin; Odd Hannisdal: violin; Marek Konstantynowicz: viola; Morten Hannisdal: cello.