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On the aptly (if unimaginatively) named Trio, American electric bassist Steve Swallow joins forces with two Danish musicians: sax player Hans Ulrik and drummer Jonas Johansen. At every turn, Swallow demonstrates why he is the premiere electric jazz bassist of the last two decades. When his trademark 5-string finds the groove that makes the trio equal partners, Ulrik and Johansen endeavor to keep up with Swallow's power and inventiveness. They succeed more often than not, resulting in a highly charged straight-ahead session.
Johansen's light touch is apropos and especially evident on two Swallow compositions: "Self Exiting Circuit" and "I Fall Asleep Too Easily." The latter features a melodic bass opener that descends into a sleepy chordal undulation that allows Ulrik to lull with his sax. Swallow takes most of the risks throughout, breathing new life into the classic "After You've Gone" by setting a frantic pace. On Johansen's "The Girl With The Hair (In All Directions)", a predictable melody is dressed up and made interesting by the novel inclusion of a Galician pandeiro frame drum alongside a contemporary rock-edged bass line. "Exactly Backward" is an appealingly quirky mid-CD respite, featuring a hypnotic drum and bass meld over which Johansen plays a dissonantly sweet line.
Ulrik shows himself a versatile player able to adapt to a rhythm section that is not satisfied to serve simply as a slate on which his sax can write melody and doodle improv. Quite the contrary, drum and bass are high in the mix. They drive Ulrik's sax to sob and cry on the bluesy, though somewhat timeworn sounding "Brother J" and to natural thick honey on "It's Blue." Trio ends up being more than a forum for Swallow to display his unique talents. It highlights that in the right six hands, power and freshness is still possible in the timeless sax trio format.
Track Listing: Self Exiting Circuit; Brother; I Fall Asleep Too Easily; After You've Gone; Exactly Backward; The Girl With the Hair (In All Directions); It's Blue; Tossing and Turning; Gung KRRR; Here Comes Everybody.
Personnel: Hans Ulrik: tenor and soprano saxophones; Steve Swallow: electric bass;
Jonas Johansen: drums, pandeiro.
I was first exposed to jazz as a middle school band student. A college ensemble passed through and put on a concert for the band students (of which I was one). The level of mastery and musicianship blew me away, intimidated, and inspired me
I was first exposed to jazz as a middle school band student. A college ensemble passed through and put on a concert for the band students (of which I was one). The level of mastery and musicianship blew me away, intimidated, and inspired me. Try as I might, I was never able to achieve a high enough level of competency to perform at the level I was first and subsequently exposed to. Regardless, I was hooked on jazz and remain so to this day.