Trombonist Steve Swell's latest album is an appealing free jazz set, by turns reflective and raucous. Swell's original compositions are brought to life by the animated playing of his quartet, which includes Sabir Mateen on reeds and flute, Matthew Heyner on bass, and Klaus Kugel on drums.
The opening track of Slammin' the Infinite, "With the Morning, Hope, typifies the approach of the quartet throughout the album. An unaccompanied trombone solo begins the piece, gradually joined by the other instruments. Mateen delivers a darting flute solo over slides and dips and runs in the bass and increasingly free drumming. There's no regular harmonic progression, but the musicians' strong voices keep the listener's attention. The composition's head only appears at the end, when Swell's trombone returns and joins the flute to deliver a calm, measured statement.
Among the other arresting tracks on the album is "East Village Meet and Greet. Conveying the impression of competing conversations in a too-small apartment, it crescendos to a spastic, frenzied pitch, with Mateen wailing in the uppermost range of the clarinet over constant snare drum rolls. "Dresden Art Maneuvers is an eighteen-minute marathon that evolves through different sections. On the head, Swell and Mateen play in unison made dissonant by slightly-off intonation, while Heyner's bowed harmonics are just one of the interesting techniques the bassist uses throughout the album. The title track is another fine Swell composition, with a quirky, repeated Monk-ish theme for tenor and trombone that gives way to a heated Mateen solo.
1. With the Morning, Hope 2. East Village Meet and Greet 3. Box Set 4. Dresden Art Maneuvers 5. Slammin' the Infinite 6. Voices from the Asphalt 7. For Frank Lowe
Steve Swell, trombone; Sabir Mateen, reeds and flute; Matthew Heyner, bass; Klaus Kugel, drums
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