Steve Swell | Rivers Of Sound Ensemble…….News From the Mystic Auricle | Not Two Records

Not Two, 2008 | MW 797-2 | CD

Steve Swell – trombone | Roy Campbell – trumpet, flugelhorn | Sabir Mateen – tenor sax, flute, clarinet, alto sax | Hilliard Greene – bass | Klaus Kugel – drums

All compositions by Roy Campbell (Camroy – ASCAP), Sabir Mateen (Ribas Music Inc.- BMI), Steve Swell (Steve Swell Music – BMI), Hill Greene (Mountainmoradomusic – BMI), Klaus Kugel (GEMA)

Recorded on February 3, 2007 at Park West Studio, Brooklyn, New York. Engineer: Jim Clouse. Mastering: Michal Rosicki (MAQ Studio). Executive producer: Marek Winiarski. Cover design: Dominik Dryja ( Photography: Krzysztof Penarski.

Tracklist: 1. Journey to Omphalos 27:13 [27:13] 2. Healix [19:35] 3. News From the Mystic Auricle [22:51]

Journeys. Greek religious artifacts.

Oracles that send into the mystic. Trombonist Steve Swell and his Rivers of Sound Ensemble direct its stream-of- consciousness improvisations toward the deepest sea of musical inspiration it can find.

Swell’s Slammin’ the Infinite piano-less quartet has been expanded before—on Live @ the Vision Festival (Not Two, 2007), when joined by pianist John Blum—but the band retained the essence of its swinging inside/out approach. On this date, trumpeter Roy Campbell joins the frontline and the name of the band has changed along with the bassist. As Downtown veteran Hilliard Greene replaces Matt Heyner, the melodies evaporate and the rhythms grow more attenuated. Greene is a monster pizzicato player and his presence on any date is a mark of quality, but on News from the Mystic Auricle it’s his arco playing that sets the mood and tone on the three long improvisations offered.

Campbell’s lines sound as if they follow from the introspective, questing style best presented on 2008’s Akhenaten Suite (AUM Fidelity, 2008), where the process of music-making is more to the point than merely arriving at an end. Sabir Mateen is his usual fiery self on tenor and alto, and then turns reflective on flute and clarinet. Swell, as usual, prefers to play in his bands as an equal, enabling each horn to follow its own path.

With the horns coming together and cleaving apart in a continuous seamless flow and Greene’s strings squealing under his bow, it’s Klaus Kugel’s tireless drumming that tethers Campbell, Swell and Mateen to the ground. Every journey requires a driving force and in the Rivers of Sound Ensemble, Kugel is the engine that keeps it going.– Jeff Stockton, All About Jazz


Steve Swell’s third release

on the Polish NotTwo label moves the trombonist into new, though not entirely unfamiliar territory. On this occasion, his regular Slammin’ the Infinite band has expanded with the addition of trumpeter Roy Campbell to become the Rivers of Sound Ensemble. Hilliard Greene, who plays in Swell’s quartet with Gebhard Ullmann, takes over the bass chair from Matt Heyner, with drummer Klaus Kugel and reed maestro Sabir Mateen as holdovers.

More significant though is Swell’s dispensation with composition for the three 20+ minute pieces presented here, each sporting group credits suggesting a collective genesis. That’s not to imply that this is merely a set of free jazz blowouts, though there are some cathartic moments to be sure. What’s striking is the restraint on show and the spontaneously conceived arrangements, which conjure a different setting for each horn soloist: evidence of the protagonist’s years of hard won experience on the New York free jazz scene.

Campbell and Mateen share frontline duties alongside Swell in William Parker’s Little Huey Orchestra and are also featured in the trombonist’s Nation of We big band, so their empathetic understanding comes as no surprise. More of a revelation is the assertive intent displayed by Greene. Active across genres (from Charles Gayle to Jimmy Scott), the bassist really steps up to the plate here, such that the lengthy opener, “Journey to Omphalos,” sounds at times like a concerto for arco double bass, as Greene dazzles in measured dialogue with successive horns. Kugel also achieves a zenith, allowing more air than usual within his polyrhythmic drive, to great effect. Although the nominal leader, Swell takes no more solo space than anyone else, while making his customary full use of the trombone’s dynamic possibilities.

“Journey to Omphalos” sets the template, opening with an elegiac blending of mournful horns in loose three-way colloquy, simultaneous improvisation being a favored Swell gambit, before Mateen’s tenor launches on an extended foray, with Kugel particularly responsive to the eddies in the saxophonist’s flow. After a sequence of solos, a more subdued brooding passage ensues, before Mateen, this time on alto clarinet, ignites spirited dialogue and more garrulous horn interaction culminating in a sustained unison to close.

“Healix” has a more dreamy feel, at least initially, with the interweaving horn lines giving way to a spell of arco bass and sparse drums reminiscent of Julius Hemphill’s classic “Dogon AD” in its rhythmic slash. “News From The Mystic Auricle” features an opening prologue where first Campbell’s pastoral flute, then Mateen’s more fluid take on the same instrument, partner Greene’s squealing arco. Rounds of solos lead to another rousing three horn front line, listening and responding in a seamless flow before a whispered finish closes another exhilarating journey.

These guys are masters of this art and close listening reveals a wealth of incidental detail, particularly from the rhythmic axis of Kugel and Greene, which illuminates this highly recommended outing.– John Sharpe, All About Jazz)

Featuring Steve Swell

on trombone, Roy Campbell on trumpet & flugelhorn, Sabir Mateen on tenor & alto sax, flute & clarinet, Hill Greene on bass and Klaus Kugel on drums. This disc dedicated to the great Sam Rivers after WKCR had a marathon for him in May of 2007 and played some 177 hours of Rivers’ music. For the past decade ace trombonist and composer, Steve Swell, has has 2 or 3 discs released each year as a leader. Each has been a reason to rejoice as each one is great in different ways with a handful of different groups. This band was originally called Slammin’ the Infinite with Matt Heyner on bass and now is called the Rivers of Sound Ensemble with Hilliard Greene taking Matt’s place. This righteous disc consists of three long tracks and was well-recorded in a studio in February of 2007. “Journey to Omphalos” begins with the band playing calmly, the opening theme is most haunting. The ever-incredible Sabir Mateen takes the first powerful solo on tenor sax with that extraordinary rhythm team swirling powerfully around him. Both Hill’s acoustic bass and Klaus’ drums are amazing, tight and truly spirited. As Sabir’s solo reaches for the stars, Steve’s trombone and Roy’s trumpet spin around him marvelously. Next it is Steve’s turn to take an explosive solo and that he does ever so well. When Roy steps up the plate next, the rhythm team sails back down to the earth while Roy slowly builds the excitement back up to new levels. Hill also takes a fine solo and I dig the way the quintet holds back and plays quieter cosmic sounds in the last section, especially Sabir on clarinet and Klaus’ sly cymbal work. “Healix” picks up where the last piece left off with a fine, restrained freer vibe. There is strong duo with Hill on bowed bass and Klaus on drums the opens this piece. Roy takes one his righteous and lovely flugel solos, bending and twisting his notes inside out. Sabir’s crafty clarinet solo seems to pick up right from where Roy left off, continuing the flow perfectly, setting up Steve for a final solo that burns bright and rides gloriously on Klaus’ masterful drums and Hill’s massive bass. The epic-length title track is last the quintet shines throughout, from the suspense-filled opening through some fine flute from Sabir, all stretching out and building to a grand conclusion. This is one of those magical improv sessions that works so well as each member of the quintet supplies that cosmic glue that keeps the creative flame burning from the beginning right down to the end. Right on, brothers, right on! — BLG, Downtown Music Gallery


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