Learn How

Help improve All About Jazz

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. For $20, we'll hide those pesky Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

151

John Swana: Tug of War

C. Andrew Hovan By

Sign in to view read count
The only reason that thirty-something trumpeter John Swana is not a more recognized jazz artist is due to the fact that he refuses to move to New York and instead keeps his hometown scene of Philadelphia healthy and vibrant. Fortunately for us, Criss Cross Jazz knew a good thing when they heard it and over the course of five previous albums Swana has validated his talents as a one of the jazz world's finest mainstream trumpeters.

In many ways, Tug of War stands as a decisive statement and a highlight of what is already a splendid catalog. The format is the standard quintet with a trumpet and saxophone front line, but the resulting music is anything but standard or methodical. The opening "Freddie", just one of seven Swana originals, paves the way for the excitement to follow. Inspired by fellow trumpet man Freddie Hubbard, Swana's line contains the kind of harmonic twists and turns that marked Hubbard's finest Blue Note work of the '60s. Saxophonist Chris Potter, who can at times can be too cold and intellectual with his playing, puts down one of his best recorded moments, full of vivacity and forward momentum. Then things cool out for the lengthy modal exploration provided by the title track. Here we get introduced to the superb drumming of Byron Landham and get to hear Potter's sinewy soprano, along with a taste of David Hazeltine's remarkable pianistic skills. These are but two selected highlights out of a nine-tune set that provides a diversity of moods.

Although a lot of recent critical commentary has been bent on putting down the efforts of those musicians who choose to work within the tradition, Swana's music provides exceptional support for the viewpoint that it's possible to have your cake and eat it too. You can work within the mainstream and still say your own thing, and even appeal to a reasonable-sized audience. Swana's done it before and he continues to do so. Now, if we could just get him to head to New York. Look out!


Track Listing: Freddie, Tug of War, Vic Arpeggio, Innocence, Pure Bliss, Smile, Puss 'n Boots, Pure Imagination, Quick Fix (69:50)

Personnel: John Swana- trumpet & fluegelhorn, Chris Potter- tenor & soprano saxophones, flute, David Hazeltine- piano, Dwayne Burno- bass, Byron Landham- drums

| Record Label: Criss Cross | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Hear & Now CD/LP/Track Review Hear & Now
Read Known-Unknown CD/LP/Track Review Known-Unknown
Read Live At Vilnius Jazz Festival CD/LP/Track Review Live At Vilnius Jazz Festival
Read Stinger CD/LP/Track Review Stinger
Read Binary CD/LP/Track Review Binary
Read Piano Song CD/LP/Track Review Piano Song
Read "Live At The Open Gate" CD/LP/Track Review Live At The Open Gate
Read "Wrong is Right" CD/LP/Track Review Wrong is Right
Read "Cinema Spiral" CD/LP/Track Review Cinema Spiral
Read "Afternoon In Paris" CD/LP/Track Review Afternoon In Paris
Read "The Journey" CD/LP/Track Review The Journey
Read "Altered Narratives" CD/LP/Track Review Altered Narratives

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Get Jazz Near You via email!

Enjoy the convenience of receiving a comprehensive listing of jazz events in your area every Thursday. It's free!