Don’t let the stripped down instrumentation of this trio fool you. These three players make music of such breadth and scope that it often sounds as if there were twice their number. Their playing is both visceral and vigorous and they communicate an urgent energy barely controlled by the confines of the tunes. Grassi is a one man percussive powerhouse able to pound out elemental cadences or just as agilely sculpt complex polyrhythms for his partners to play atop. Connell’s reedwork is wracked with the kind of emotional immediacy that grabs you by the collar and doesn’t let go until you’ve listened (and not just heard) fully to what he’s trying to say. It’s unfortunate that he hasn’t recorded more widely especially considering the evidence of his prowess available here. Swell is the perfect ringleader tossing growling metallic slurs like thunderbolts and turning from lead to rhythmic roles on a dime.
“Labor’s Daze” and “Cosmo Crater” capture the trio’s more agitated side as the three crash and cavort with unruly abandon. The only drawback to these tunes is their sometimes unyielding density. “Folk Tune,” is built on just that serving up some delicious solos from all three players, particularly Swell who takes the longest space to relinquish his verdant ideas. “Saved As One” also highlights Swell in a pugnacious display of lower register jabs and cuffs that cow the tune’s melody into pummeled submission. Grassi’s disorderly drums contribute further to the din while simultaneous maintaining a rhythmic center. On “BA-1” the trio completely shifts gears playing softly muted unison passages emphasizing sonic space and nuance. The opening duet between Swell and Grassi is suffused with the kind of interplay most groups yearn for. Alto saxophone and trombone are the focal points on “Let’s Go Right Ahead” where Connell and Swell blend and shape their lines with uncanny telepathic accuracy. “Atmospheels-Stage 2” (what happened to Stage 1?) is built around a cyclic themes which recollect both AACM and Latin influences. The concluding “Soul Traveler Con Fuego” carries over some of the Latin elements, most notably in Grassi’s shakers and shells, and serves as a fitting coda for the disc. Thanks to Bob Rusch and everyone at CIMP all three of these players are finally getting their well deserved due through ongoing opportunities to record the wonderful music that inhabits their fertile minds. Hopefully these fruitful associations will continue to produce sessions of this high caliber for years to come.
Track Listing: Labor
Personnel: Steve Swell- trombone, Will Connell- alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, Lou Grassi- drums, percussion.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.