Cadence Magazine review by David Dupont

Steve Swell – Planet Dream (CF 148)
Trombonist Swell’s Planet Dream emphasizes the ensemble. Swell alternates collective improvisations with tracks based on composed themes. And though it’s completely acoustic, there’s plenty of electricity in the proceedings. These are tightly argued discussions. On “Not Necessarily This, Nor That,” cellist Daniel Levin opens with an arco statement that poses a series of questions. Swell and alto saxophonist Rob Brown enter in disputatious moods, and the discussion only grows more pointed, full of rips and snarls, until it seems to exhaust itself. Levin gets the last word. On “#2 of Nine” Brown opens by working a little two-note jump, and Swell answers with the retrograde drop. On the mournful “And Then They Wept,” the trio demonstrate how, even on a collective improvisation, they can phrase together. This session also got me thinking about the way certain turns of phrase—kind of atonal but pulling toward a tonic—start seeming familiar, due to the work of players (including Swell) to refine as well as expand the procedures of Free Jazz. The date opens with a formless passage that the ensemble slowly gives shape to.. And in the middle of Planet Dream Swell drops “Airtight,” a piece that grooves over an Afro-beat ostinato, the Free Jazzer’s equivalent of a medium tempo Blues. That’s not to say anything here sounds stale, just more predictable than maybe I’d expect. And it’s not to say there’s not much that’s fresh within the program. Swell’s searching for new approaches is shown in the closing “Texture #2” which shape shifts every couple minutes or so. Such restlessness fuels Swell and his trio in their fruitful search for new sounds.
©Cadence Magazine 2010

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