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The State of OA2 Records 2010: Nelda Swiggett and Debbie Poryes

C. Michael Bailey By

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The umbrella record label Origin Arts has three imprint labels beneath it: Origin Records, founded in 1997 by Seattle drummer John Bishop, focusing primarily on prominent jazz artists from the Northwest United States. OA2 records was begun in 2002 with the aim of broadening Origin's talent attention countrywide. Origin Classical was later founded with not simply the goal of recasting the standard classical repertoire, but also to reveal its lesser known quantities and to forge new directions in what might be considered "classical music."

The present subject is OA2 Records and two fine West Coast band leaders, Nelda Swiggett and Debbie Poryes. Grounded forward thinking characterizes these artists and the styles of their respective combos. The mainstream has never looked (or sounded) better.

Nelda Swiggett

This Time

OA2 Records


Comparisons with Thelonious Monk and McCoy Tyner notwithstanding, Seattle- native Nelda Swiggett summons the influence of a piano talent closer to home, that of the late Gene Harris. Both pianists' styles are characterized by a bright palette, a sinewy execution and a powerful, assertive command. Swiggett's atonal tendencies echo Monk and her percussive nature, Tyner. Taken as a whole, the sound is all Swiggett's: refined and confident, open and inviting.

This Time is Swiggett's first recording for the OA2 label, and third release overall. No Time for Daydreams (1993), with the Room to Move Sextet, and Hands On (1999) were released on her own Moving Room imprint. This Time features 11 original Swiggett compositions that all reveal a keen ear for memorable and unique jazz composition. Swiggett favors rhythmic archetypes such as the punctuated "Jack and Key Boo Ba," the closely chaotic "Mere Madness," and the Latinesque "Beyond That."

Swiggett is very much a double fisted pianist, like Harris, who is able to coax much from her piano. The orchestral expanse of her playing would enable Swiggett to easily produce a full-bodied solo recital. Bassist Chris Symer shares a close empathy with the pianist, fully able to duplicate and sustain her craggy rhythms. His arco playing on "The Time Being" is beautifully appropriate. Drummer Byron Vannoy is the anchor that keeps this trio grounded, his playing never too loud of overbearing. Swiggitt's singing is also very fine, though closely guarded as she sings on only three of the disc's compositions. This Time is a strong and elegant jazz showing.

Visit Nelda Swiggett on the web.

Debbie Poryes Quartet

Catch Your Breath

OA2 Records


Where Nelda Swiggett performs smart jazz within angular if mainstream parameters, Debbie Poryes colors more outside the lines than Swiggett, her quartet's style bleeding into avant-garde and high-IQ adult contemporary. Expanding the trio to a quartet with the addition of a horn, Poryes bounces between the sharp post-bop of her composition "Catch Your Breath," and the moody, Lisztian, almost Baroque figures of her interpretation of Sammy Cahn's "I Should Care."

In Poryes, still waters run deep. While she does not clear room swinging her elbows, Poryes does carefully command her band's direction. On the Rodgers and Hart "My Heart Stood Still" she rhythmically mixes things up before stretching into a swinging rhythm behind saxophonist Bruce Williamson and then stretching further into her own romping solo. She brightly updates Sonny Clark's "Melody for C" and takes on the near-modern with the Beatles' "Here, There & Everywhere," turning it into a waltzing ballad.

This is incredibly refined lounge music and that is no bad thing. Poryes plays to challenge and compel, but never forgets to entertain. She closes the disc with her original "Lake Dream," a drowsy atonal reverie that extends from Monk to saxophonist Steve Lacy and beyond.

Visit Debbie Poryes on the web.

Tracks and Personnel

This Time

Tracks: For the Love of It; Chill; Jack and the Key Boo Ba; Heart of the Moment; No Tattoo; Walk Beside Me; Mere Madness; The Time Being; Beyond That; Say in Silence; Salut Ledru Rollin.

Personnel: Nelda Swiggett: piano, vocals (2, 6, 10); Chris Symer: acoustic bass; Byron Vannoy: drums.

Catch Your Breath

Tracks: Catch Your Breath; I've Got the Sun in the Morning; Prayer For A Child; My Heart Stood Still; I Should Care; Willie's Waltz; Melody for C; Here, There & Everywhere; Lake Dream.

Personnel: Debbie Poryes: piano; Bruce Williamson: alto & soprano saxophones; Bill Douglass: acoustic bass; David Rokeach: drums.

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