11

The Swallow Quintet: Into the Woodwork

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
The Swallow Quintet: Into the Woodwork In the press sheet for Steve Swallow's Into the Woodwork, the award-winning electric bassist is quoted, saying: "Good humor before and after the red light goes on is very important. Music-making should be fun, after all." Those fortunate enough to see Swallow with Steve Kuhn and Joey Baron this past summer—including a memorable stop at the 2013 TD Ottawa Jazz Festival—experienced this ethos first-hand, as smiles and outright laughter defined a performance that was, indeed, great fun, but just as deep musically—the ultimate consequence of musicians so relaxed with each other that nothing can get in the way.

Into the Woodwork may lack the visuals, but it's clear that this quintet is having just as much fun, and is comfortable enough together to allow anything to happen—albeit within the structures of Swallow's writing. Other than life/music partner Carla Bley—focusing solely on organ and begging the question why she doesn't do so more often—this is a new constellation under the Swallow marquee, but guitarist Steve Cardenas and saxophonist Chris Cheek have intersected before, both with each other and with Swallow and Bley, in Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band and Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra, respectively. Drummer Jorge Rossy—best-known for his decade-long tenure with Brad Mehldau—was a late addition, writing Swallow after hearing of the nascent quartet to ask if he might join in, and his melodic approach makes him the perfect choice to drive this book of 12 new Swallow compositions.

Swallow's has already achieved a place in the history books for memorable compositions like "Falling Grace," "Olhos del Gato" and "Como en Vietnam," but it's too early to tell if any of Into the Woodwork will join that rarefied group. Still, the through-composed, dark-hued "Sad Old Candle," vivacious title track, balladic "From Who It May Concern" and drum-heavy "Back in Action"—Rossy's call-and-response with the rest of the group occupying a full half of its five-minutes before a quirky, dissonant theme resolves into Cheek's fiery solo, driven by Swallow and Rossy's effortless, unrelenting swing—are individually memorable while, segued together as a 21-minute suite, contribute to Into the Woodwork greater continuity. The same approach links the blues-drenched "Grisly Business," brighter "Unnatural Causes" and ambling "The Butler Did It," before a brief pause leads into the album's closing tracks, joined together for 25 episodic minutes. In the midst of these five tunes, following Cardenas' warm-toned, melody-centric solo, "Still There" features Bley liberally—and mischievously—quoting the American folk song "I've Been Working on the Railroad" and the military "Taps."

That's just one example of Into the Woodwork's relentless spontaneity ... and good humor. The writing may be deep and the playing even deeper—Swallow's bass rarely feeling this rich or filled with ideas—but at its heart is a group that more than likely shares the same onstage smiles and laughter that Swallow did with Kuhn. It's been 13 years since Swallow last recorded with a full-sized quintet, but Into the Woodwork represents a new group and repertoire that easily stands amongst his best work in a career now entering its sixth decade.


Track Listing: Sad Old Candle; Into the Woodwork; From Whom It May Concern; Back in Action; Grisly Business; Unnatural Causes; The Butler Did It; Suitable for Framing; Small Comfort; Still There; Never Know; Exit Stage Left.

Personnel: Chris Cheek: tenor saxophone; Steve Cardenas: guitar; Carla Bley: organ; Steve Swallow: bass; Jorge Rossy: drums.

Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: XtraWATT/ECM | Style: Modern Jazz


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Janus" CD/LP/Track Review Janus
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 20, 2016
Read "Illustrations" CD/LP/Track Review Illustrations
by Dave Wayne
Published: September 7, 2016
Read "Interstellar Space" CD/LP/Track Review Interstellar Space
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: May 29, 2016
Read "Need to Bring Out Love" CD/LP/Track Review Need to Bring Out Love
by Jack Bowers
Published: April 5, 2016
Read "Stille Post (Radio Works: 2003-2011)" CD/LP/Track Review Stille Post (Radio Works: 2003-2011)
by Mark Corroto
Published: July 17, 2016
Read "Hawniyaz" CD/LP/Track Review Hawniyaz
by Karl Ackermann
Published: August 1, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!