Spring Heel Jack is the brainchild of British musicians John Coxon and Ashley Wales, who have collaborated with jazz musicians to create a new fusion of free jazz and electronica. On The Sweetness Of The Water , Coxon and Wales merge their keyboards, guitars, and sound sculptures with the acoustic quartet of trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, saxophonist Evan Parker, bassist John Edwards, and drummer Mark Sanders. The resulting music is often meditative, frequently thoughtful, and always majestic and masterful.
As good as Spring Heel Jack's previous efforts were, at times the electronics would either stand outside the acoustic music, or they would overwhelm the acoustic players. But this time the electronics are integrated remarkably well into the band sound, an instrument fully participating in the ensemble. For example, on "Track One," layered electronics create a series of drones under a repeated piano figure as Smith and Parker improvise remarkably cohesive lines. On "Lata," Coxon's vibes provide harmonic and rhythmic movement while Parker swirls microtones around the vibes and some bubbling electronic textures.
The rhythms of this music are often rubato and very gentle. Sanders' drumming on "Track Two" makes subtle flamenco or funk gestures until the band eases into a swaying, lightly swinging waltz to bring the music home. In a sense, however, The Sweetness Of The Water belongs to Wadada Leo Smith, a major trumpet voice who has yet to receive proper recognition. Smith's trumpet improvisations here are often lyrical, sometimes assertive, always unpredictable. He is absolutely splendid. Likewise, Evan Parker plays very well, and his warm tenor tone on "Track One" catches the listener's ear. The Sweetness Of The Water is electro-acoustic jazz at its finest.