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The Swallow-Talmor-Nussbaum Trio at the Douglas Beach House

Bill Leikam By

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Swallow-Talmor-Nussbaum Trio
Douglas Beach House
Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society
Half Moon Bay, California
August 10, 2014

A rare U.S. performance by the highly sophisticated and seasoned jazz trio of Steve Swallow, electric bass; Ohad Talmor, tenor saxophone; and Adam Nussbaum on drums, set the stage for a two-set performance. Before his passing on July 12, 2014, Pete Douglas, the legendary club owner and founder of the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, talked about this trio and how much he had looked forward to hearing them, and for good reason. Swallow has played with many of the top jazz musicians in the world such as Dizzy Gillespie, Michael Brecker, George Benson, Herbie Hancock and Carla Bley. Not only does he play the electric bass, but he also composes and arranges, and his compositions have been performed by a who's who of great jazz musicians. As stated in his online bio, "Many of his songs have been recorded by prominent jazz artists, including Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Stan Getz, Gary Burton, Art Farmer, Jack DeJohnette, Jim Hall and Pat Metheny." Saxophonist Talmor not only scores and plays jazz, he is renowned worldwide for his classical compositions and arrangements. From his bio notes: ..."he has played with Jason Moran, Josh Redman, Fred Hersh, Dave Douglas, Carla Bley, Joe Lovano, Chris Potter, Billy Hart, and many more." Nussbaum's drums keep superb time and he has played with Dave Liebman and John Scofield, among others.

As the trio walked through the room and took the stage, the audience applauded with such verve that one would think that it was already the end of a great concert. The applause went on and on. In honor of these musicians, some stood as the trio settled onto the stage to perform most of the trio's album Singular Curves (AUAND, 2014). Without a word of introduction, Swallow opened "Days of Old," composed by Adam Nussbaum, with a long, intricately-played bass solo until Talmor slipped in with his tenor saxophone, along with Nussbaum delicately swishing the brushes over the cymbals.

Without a break, the trio segued into Swallow's composition "Here Comes Everybody." From there the tenor of what sounded to be a singular piece picked up tempo as Nussbaum replaced brushes with sticks and at the same time Talmor's saxophone brought in that jazz swing while Swallow's bass laid back behind it all, until they brought it all down to closure.

What a masterful way to open this stellar concert. Before tune number six, Swallow's reconstructed version of "Carolina Moon," originally written by Joe Burke and Benny Davis in 1924, Swallow told a story well worth relating here. In around 1950 he heard a Thelonious Monk rendition of this piece. Years later, and without referring back to a recording of Monk's version, Swallow reconstructed it, trying to remember what he'd heard all those long years before, but at the same time giving it his own flavor as an arranger. Here's where memory does one no favors. When it was played for the first time, it sounded nothing like Monk's version nor the original by Burke and Davis. There were two or three places in the piece where there were brief phrases recognizable from the original, but then the music walked away elsewhere. Swallow's intricate picking on his electric bass held the groove along with the drums, but then Talmor stepped in and laid down a swinging jazz melody.

The sophistication, the intricate complexities embedded within each and every one of these tunes, took all who heard this concert to a level not often achieved. That's only the beginning. Add the element of improvisation, juxtaposed with what was written, and it's easy to see why these three jazz masters are often hailed as the finest on their respective instruments. The audience understood, and even before the last note was played, applause filled that intimate space between the trio and the people. If Pete Douglas had been there, he would have certainly hailed the Swallow-Talmor-Nussbaum Trio as a top-of-the-chart, historic performance.

Photo Credit:
Linda Goetz

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