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Nelda Swiggett’s second recording as leader shows the Seattle-based pianist in a bright and creative light. Refreshing and somewhat (Thelonious) Monk-like, the leader’s piano artistry and original compositions urge her quartet to the creation of an exciting session. Drummer Steve Hill propels with taste while bassist Chuck Bergeron amplifies the rhythm and Brian Kent supplies a full, rich tone. Swiggett adds wordless vocals behind the melody in places to augment the quartet’s harmony and to add a unique blend.
In 1998, Swiggett was awarded an Artist Trust Fellowship by the Washington State Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her recommended album, Hands On, should be available in stores; but if you have trouble finding it, contact Moving Room Productions, P.O. Box 30705, Seattle, WA 98103 (206) 527-8670.
The quartet’s agenda moves freely between hard bop and contemporary sounds. A natural "Venus Girl" lopes along in straight-ahead fashion with a pleasant tenor saxophone lead, lovely wordless vocals and fulfilled rhythmic roles. Swiggett’s soulful piano interlude drives the message home in vibrant hard bop fashion. "I Spy Love" slows it down somewhat and again relies on Kent’s tenor sax and Swiggett’s wordless vocals to carry on the main ingredient. This time the pianist’s interlude becomes an adventurous samba that shifts and turns with dramatic tension. Similarly, "Last Laugh" moves around rapidly with quirky, unexpected changes in meter and mood. Refreshing, Swiggett’s program also includes two lovely songs that offer nods to her young sons: part lullaby and part charged-up high-energy motion. Brian Kent’s "Dog Food," a swinging New Orleans shuffle that Bergeron and Hill seem to enjoy, presents a festive mood in high spirits. Finally, with a tongue-in-cheek title, "Tra La La" smokes in hard bop fashion with Kent and trumpeter Jim Sisko holding up the front line. Making a quintet of the final piece, Swiggett reminds us that, while her program combines pleasant contemporary surprises, its roots are deeply embedded in acoustic straight-ahead jazz.
Track Listing: The Odyssey; Moon Boy Revisited; For the New Year; Dog Food; Then Came Dylan; Miles High; Last Laugh; Venus Girl; Fast Track Jack; I Spy Love; Bossadilly; Tra La La.
Personnel: Nelda Swiggett- piano, synth, vocals; Chuck Bergeron- bass; Steve Hill- drums; Brian Kent- tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone on "Last Laugh" and "Bossadilly;" Jeff Busch- added percussion on "Miles High" and "Bossadilly;" Jim Sisko- trumpet on "Miles High" and "Tra La La."
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.