Steve Swell Nation of We – The Business of Here… (Cadence Jazz)
Platform 1 – Takes Off (CF 255)
Steve Swell is a hard one to put a finger on. His playing is so pure it’s hard to see him in it – what a trombone would want to be if it didn’t need human assistance. Such clarity of vision isn’t easily sustained in a band two-dozen strong, at least not while keeping the flame of the Downtown jazz scene Swell has been associated with for close to 40 years. But on The Businessof Here… Live at Roulette he lets the big band unleashits power at times while retaining a delicate control over much of the proceedings. The result is an uncompromising 70 minutes that breaks into some lovely moments, including a violin duo (Rosi Hertlein and Jason Kao Hwang) that dissolves into a sax-with-strings in miniature upon the entrance of Giuseppe Logan. From that point, about 20 minutes in, Swell deftly rebuilds the band, slowly bringing in players and earning the momentum of a free jazz explosion but not before a convincing beat invocation by bassist/poet Albey Balgochian. It’s a fun ride all around and shows the freedom to be found in discipline.
Platform 1’s Takes Off is a smaller ensemble, which similarly benefits from judicious restraint and given the players it’s no surprise. The quintet is fronted by Swell, Ken Vandermark (tenor sax and Bb clarinet), whose dedication to jazz discipline has extended to numerous homages and dedications, and trumpeter Magnus Broo, who has played with Vandermark before- notably in the exceptional 4 Corners – and is a part of the vital Swedish jazz scene. Backing them is the wonderfully on-point drummer Michael Vatcher and the fine Swedish-by-way-of-Canada bassist Joe Williamson. All but Vatcher contribute compositions to this fine collection and all show a respect for the proceedings. It’s that sort of stoking flames, rather than dumping lighter fluid on them, which makes fiery jazz like these two records so exciting.