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Steve Swell's Rivers of Sound Ensemble: News from the Mystic Auricle

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Journeys. Greek religious artifacts. Oracles that send into the mystic. Trombonist Steve Swell and his Rivers of Sound Ensemble direct its stream-of- consciousness improvisations toward the deepest sea of musical inspiration it can find.

Swell's Slammin' the Infinite piano-less quartet has been expanded before—on Live @ the Vision Festival (Not Two, 2007), when joined by pianist John Blum—but the band retained the essence of its swinging inside/out approach. On this date, trumpeter Roy Campbell joins the frontline and the name of the band has changed along with the bassist. As Downtown veteran Hilliard Greene replaces Matt Heyner, the melodies evaporate and the rhythms grow more attenuated. Greene is a monster pizzicato player and his presence on any date is a mark of quality, but on News from the Mystic Auricle it's his arco playing that sets the mood and tone on the three long improvisations offered.

Campbell's lines sound as if they follow from the introspective, questing style best presented on 2008's Akhenaten Suite (AUM Fidelity, 2008), where the process of music-making is more to the point than merely arriving at an end. Sabir Mateen is his usual fiery self on tenor and alto, and then turns reflective on flute and clarinet. Swell, as usual, prefers to play in his bands as an equal, enabling each horn to follow its own path.

With the horns coming together and cleaving apart in a continuous seamless flow and Greene's strings squealing under his bow, it's Klaus Kugel's tireless drumming that tethers Campbell, Swell and Mateen to the ground. Every journey requires a driving force and in the Rivers of Sound Ensemble, Kugel is the engine that keeps it going.

Track Listing: Journey to Omphalos; Healix; News From the Mystic Auricle.

Personnel: Roy Campbell: trumpet, flugelhorn; Sabir Mateen: tenor saxophone, flute, alto clarinet, alto saxophone; Steve Swell: trombone; Hilliard Greene: bass; Klaus Kugel: drums.

Title: News from the Mystic Auricle | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Not Two Records

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