Recorded on June 15th 2006 by Scott Young at Leon Lee Dorsey Studio (New York, Ny, USA). Mixing: Scott Young. Mastering: Jean-Pierre Bouquet. Liner Notes: Steven Loewy. Photographs: Jacques Bisceglia/Vues sur scènes. Producer: Michel Dorbon
Tracklist: 1. Manhattan Dreamweavers (10.01) 2. For Grachan (10.51) 3. Blu Coo (10.48) 4. Swimming in a Galaxy of Goodwill and Sorrow (17) 5. For Arthur Williams (15.02) 6. Planet Hopping on a Thursday Afternoon (8.42)
This is an album to be cherished
because it reaches back and incorporates styles from swing to post-modern free jazz; and because the playing of Steve Swell and the members of his quartet are as near-perfect as you are likely to find; and because the melodies capture the imagination with a complex beauty that hooks into the inner being of soulfulness. It encompasses a unity of elements that comes as close as possible to the transcendental poignancy to which great art often aspires. As a trombonist, Steve Swell is about as good as it gets, and few can match his original fusion of technique and emotion, with obvious influences as diverse as Jack Teagarden, Grachan Moncur, III, and Roswell Rudd…
…Swell’s extended performance here is one of the most impressive on disk by a trombonist in any era. Swell is on to something, though, and so are his colleagues, because unsung alto saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc is unassailable and on top of his game, his original, searing sound fused to an architectural structure reminiscent of Georges Braque; and percussionist Hamid Drake and bassist William Parker constitute the ultimate rhythmic pair, New Trier seizes Bed-Stuy with nary a missed beat. It does mean a thing, Duke, and it swings and it doesn’t, and Agnon might say it laughs when it speaks and it speaks when it laughs – but the point ain’t about theorizing, anyhow, but enjoyment here and there, and there and here. — Steven Loewy, excerpt from the liner notes
Hamid Drake, William Parker, Steve Swell, Jemeel Moondoc
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.— Stef
Steve Swell | Photo by Jacques Bisceglia
Swimming In A Galaxy Of Goodwill And Sorrow
on the stylish Paris-based Rogue Art label, marks the recorded debut of Fire Into Music (excepting an extremely limited edition vinyl only pressing in 2005). Aside from Swell, the frontline happily spotlights Moondoc’s astringent alto saxophone, otherwise in danger of a return to undeserved obscurity. It’s a sign of Swell’s increasing stature that the major league rhythm pairing of master bassist William Parker and drummer extraordinaire Hamid Drake make time in their busy schedules to partake here as equals.
Four pieces from Swell and two from Moondoc all fall loosely into a head-solos-head bag, albeit of a very classy free jazz variety. The trombonist’s loquacious lines confound expectation, taking inventive twists, sometimes declamatory, at others cajoling. His lustrous tone blends well with Moondoc’s deep, blues tinged cry, which only sparingly hits the upper registers. Parker and Drake kindle the flames with endlessly mutated rhythmic patterns. Even when keeping time, Drake finds it impossible to repeat himself, though his embellishments never crowd the others’ space.
Swell’s “Manhattan Dreamweavers” is an unorthodox opener, eschewing the accessible swing of most of the other tracks for a more ambiguous improv orientated pulse, over which the horns set out their wares, though even here a more insistent rhythm ultimately holds sway.
Elsewhere Swell demonstrates his talent for orchestrating burning grooves with two cracking additions to his oeuvre. “For Grachan” has swiftly become a concert favourite with its throbbing bass, two-voiced theme and swinging vamp, and it draws excellent solos from both horns. Unaccompanied sparring between alto and trombone commences the title track, before a relaxed loping theme redolent of melancholic yearning launches an extended workout for the whole band.
Moondoc’s “Blu Coo” is a sprightly bounce, with the composer’s alto contrasted in suspended time, and features one of Parker and Drake’s patented telepathic grooves. The saxophonist’s other contribution, “For Arthur Williams” starts off as a mournful dirge over sawing arco bass and rumbling toms, before loosening up for a more joyous recollection of the 1970s loft jazz trumpeter. Swell’s “Planet Hopping On A Thursday Afternoon” concludes this highly recommended outing with a funky romp.— John Sharpe
CD version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)