Steve Swell remains one of the most athletic trombonists in improvised music. Earlier CIMP sessions have showcased his vigorous style in wide spectrum of groups. This most recent disc uncovers a different, but no less challenging side of his musical personality, and it’s one that he’ll hopefully decide to explore further in the future.
Creative improvising musicians have always shown a propensity for combining their instruments into new and exciting aggregations. Swell’s trio continues in that tradition blending the voices of brass, reeds and strings without percussion. It’s a chamber music blueprint taken in a daringly different direction by these three incisive improvisers and the irregularity of their instrumentation may require some getting used to. Rothenberg and Ulrich are no strangers to the setting, but hearing Swell’s usually unctuous trombone in such an environment is an unexpected pleasure.
Dark sepia tones converge on “Early Lights First Shimmering” a heliotropic poem that basks in ashen gloom. “Acoustic Rumble” shows Swell in a more familiar form, trading burly blurts with Rothenberg’s angular alto phrasings while Ulrich’s curt bow strokes and finger flurries kindle a flammable harmonic tinder underneath. Along with a majority of tracks that build off the complete trio there are also three pieces included that turn attention to component duo combinations. Rothenberg’s clarinet joins Swell in loquacious discussion on “Consume This,” a playful tune packed with a wealth of bustling harmonic ideas. “Enigma in Tone Colors” is a chromatic circus of flickering tonal hues and serves as an accommodating canvas for Rothenberg’s circular breathing techniques. Ulrich’s weighty cello is the crux on “Where the Dew Glistens” and his thick arco lines writhe below the lighter sonorities of Rothenberg’s clarinet and Swell’s first rueful, then animated brass. On each of the pieces the players accentuate their strengths as a unit and come up with music that both challenges and entices the listener, no small feat considering the unconventional nature of their instrumental palette. With any luck the success of this session will motivate Swell to organize other experiments in this direction.
Tracks:Early Lights First Shimmering/ Primordial Muse/ Acoustic Rumble/ Consume This/ Come On In, The Music’s Fine/ Enigma in Tone Colors/ Storm Hopping/ Where the Dew Glistens/ Concerning the Spiritual in Kandinsky/ Under the Peripheral/ With the Shove Comes the Push.
Players:Steve Swell- trombone; Ned Rothenberg- clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone; Tomas Ulrich- cello.
Recorded: July 12 & 13, 1999, Rossie, NY.
CIMP recordings are available directly through North Country Distributors- http://www.cadencebuilding.com