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John Swana: On Target & New York-Philly Junction

C. Andrew Hovan By

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It seems like a lot of up and coming trumpeters these days go for the bop stylings of Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw as their main influence. Far fewer look to players like Art Farmer or Kenny Wheeler for inspiration. That's what has made watching the development of Philadelphia trumpet man John Swana so fascinating over the years. While he has the chops needed to communicate in the be-bop language, his tone and use of space suggest that he's indeed listened to men like Farmer and Wheeler for the lyrical beauty in their playing. Quite possibly one of the most talented and underrated trumpeters of his generation, Swana continues grow with each new Criss Cross outing, with some of his best work to date to be heard on two recent releases.

John Swana
On Target
Criss Cross
2003

For On Target , Swana has assembled an unusal quartet, featuring guitarist Jesse Van Ruller, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Eric Harland. The references to Art Farmer's early '60s combo with Jim Hall are not to be denied and like Farmer, Swana is not only impressive in his ability to carry much of the solo load but also in the sagacious ways he voices the heads. Seven of the nine tracks come from the trumpeter's pen and each one taps a different stylistic mood. "Sweet Sadness" finds Swana at his lyrical best, while the expansive "Suspended Sentence" simmers quite well at medium tempo. Quite different from all his other Criss Cross sides, On Target further consolidates Swana's individuality. It's a quieter, gentler record with many treats in store.

Joe Magnarelli/John Swana
New York-Philly Junction
Criss Cross
2004

More of a full blown hard bop affair, New York-Philly Junction actually is a co-led date that reprises the pairing of Joe Magnarelli and Swana from a few years back. The cohorts here are the same, with Eric Alexander filling out the front line and the rhythm section of Joel Weiskopf, Peter Washington, and Kenny Washington still in tact. Somewhat in the tradition of your typical '50s blowing session, the structures are pretty straight-forward and there's plenty of solo space for all. This is not to say there's anything redundant about the affair because nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, what makes things interesting is the comparing of Swana and Magnarelli, while the former is more of a lyrical and introspective player, the latter comes from the bristling Lee Morgan school of expression and its these complimentary approaches that makes this one so much fun to listen to.

On Target
Personnel: John Swana (trumpet), Jesse Van Ruller (guitar), John Patitucci (bass), Eric Harland (drums)

Track Listing: Through My Eyes, Mud Puppy, Sweet Sadness, On Target, View From Above, When Love Was You and Me, Jitterbug Waltz, Suspended Sentence, Philly Jazz

New York-Philly Junction
Personnel: John Swana & Joe Magnarelli (trumpet), Eric Alexander (tenor sax), Joel Weiskopf (piano), Peter Washington (bass), Kenny Washington (drums)

Track Listing: New York-Philly Junction, Giants, My Old Flame, Lou Ann, From Now On, Eagles, They Say It's Wonderful, If Ever I Would Leave You

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