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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Steve Swell - Swimming In A Galaxy Of Goodwill And Sorrow (Rogueart, 2007) ****

Trombonist Steve Swell's band is called "Fire Into Music", which is a good moniker for the band and the music, with Jemeel Moondoc on alto sax, William Parker on bass and Hamid Drake on drums. And as I've said earlier, these guys know what music is all about, with technical mastery of the instrument serving just as the foundation from which to start building the music. Skills are here at the full service of the music, an instrumental conduit to turn the fire of their passions into musical language. And their passions are wide : the album's title may lead you anywhere "a galaxy of goodwill and sorrow", life itself, including the best and the worst in man, but also musical tradition itself, which is blues, swing, bop, free, all culminating in this music, which is melodic, structured and free. The title track is certainly one of the highlights, with a beautiful theme, but so is the very long and slow "For Arthur Williams", composed by Jemeel Moondoc, offering Swell the right speed to bring the trombone's plaintive tones to their most eloquent level. The music on the whole record is very rhythmic, with probably the best rhythm section you can have nowadays, but it's above all melodic, open and creative at the same time. Swell wrote most of the material, with lots of slow melodic build-up, creating a real coherent album of very solemn, grave and long-spun themes, with the exception of the more abstract opening track, yet adding a fun rhythmic pulse, hence creating a kind or mixed mood, which perfectly corresponds with the title. He is also sufficiently experienced to let the whole band shine and indeed, all four musicians contribute to the album's success. As it should be.