While baritone saxophonist Dave Sewelson may not be as widely-recognized as those whose company he regularly keeps, this long-standing veteran of William Parker's Little Huey Orchestra and the Microscopic Sextet has long been a force in wielding his weighty axe, lending lower-end punch with vigor and dexterity for several decades. Here he's reunited with Parker, drummer Marvin Bugalu Smith and trombonist Steve Swell for a follow-up to a recording from 2018, Music for a Free World (FMR Records). Like its predecessor, More Music for a Free World offers plenty of engaging free-bop, played with fortitude and fluidity by four masters of the genre.
With only three tracks, and two coming in at over twenty minutes in length, the band puts a premium on the enticing dialogue which emerges between Sewelson and Swell, both of whom possess an intuitive anticipation of each other's contributions. Swirling, intertwined phrases or jaunty, punctuated interjections abound as the two bob and weave in close rapport. Swell's big and brash sound blends perfectly with Sewelson's feisty pugnacity, as the two have some delightfully robust exchanges on the first cut, "Memories." But without Parker's rhythmically supple support and Smith's open-ended shifting pulses, the music would lose a lot of its power. Smith can swing in a dozen different ways, and Parker's propensity to stretch the music in multiple directions allows Sewelson and Swell maximum liberty to extend their conversation in whatever way they see fit.
Although, at almost thirty minutes, the second piece, "Dreams," does risk losing its momentum in places, there is no denying the impressive range which both Sewelson and Swell bring to their respective horns. Swell's rapid-fire phrasing is inventive and arresting, while Sewelson reveals little difficulty in matching or shadowing his steady barrage of notes. And his tenacious overblowing is as ferocious as one would expect. But it is on the closing cut, "Reflections," that he demonstrates his facility to the fullest, with deep, soulful low-end musings which alternate with some remarkable upper-register excursions.
There is little mystery why Sewelson has been such a valued sideman over the years; it is only fitting that he gets another opportunity to put his own name at the top of a disc, and with such terrific partners as well.
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