Bassist Mary Ann McSweeney debuted with her well-received recording Thoughts of You on Jim Eigo's Jazz Magnet label. On that outing she employed her husband, Mike Fahn, on valve trombone, Donny McCaslin on reeds and flutes, Henry Hey on piano, and Tim Horner on drums. Now, almost three years later, McSweeney returns with the same band for Swept Away, where she swirls together influences from European Classical, East Indian, and South American traditions. The result is a heady mead made strong with improvisation and musicianship.
As on her previous recording, McSweeney is mixed on top of the sound, giving her a pronounced but not interrupting presence. Her arco playing is full and her pizzicato sure. McCaslin, who has been rising in the rank of prominent instrumentalists, stays closest to his flutes and soprano saxophone on the present collection. He melds well with the Fahn's trombone. The group's sound often recalls Gerry Mulligan's quartet with Bob Brookmeyer. However, McCaslin does turn in a superb tenor treatment on "From The Other Side," muscular and angularwith damn near no trace of John Coltrane, thank you very much!
The music presented is an eclectic and progressive hard bop, full of surprises. Grieg's "Notturno" shows up in a very Ellingtonian fashion, Kate McGarry vocalizing the melody alongside Donny McCaslin's tenor. McSweeney's arco is beautiful, full, and sensual. Among the spate of progressive acoustic jazz CDs released recently, Swept Away pulls away because of its eager risk-taking. It proves itself a worthy addition to McSweeney's discography.