Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

STEVE SWELL – Planet Dream (CF 148)
A set of complex compositions and a few improvisations that at times sound as vivaciously articulate as a drunken teacher’s excursion in front of blank-eyed pupils, elsewhere giving a chance to the protagonists for starting their own brand of Pindaric flight, always with technically impeccable flamboyance but, alas, only occasionally warming this listener’s heart. Trombonist Steve Swell looks at Planet Dream as a sort of utopia, a world where complete self-expression is warranted and people are accepted for what they are. Cellist Daniel Levin and alto saxophonist Rob Brown are happy to help the nominal leader in this vision, the instruments entwined in a series of mainly talkative constructions that result rambunctious, mildly impertinent, bluesy, once in a blue moon solemn and, not infrequently, overwrought. It’s not a matter of recognition of singular personalities: all three are very fine musicians, and listening to unquestionable abilities is okay. What leaves us pondering at what could have been made differently is the dearth of introspective vibration, in that the music seems to expose a bit of coldness rather than really involve. There are moments in which the mind appreciates some measure of relief, and in this particular record the blend of eagerness and spotless virtuosity tends to suffocate the soul, ultimately turning a meeting of champions into a semi-sterile round table characterized by an inclination to speak concurrently, the risk being that of stifling the constructive words that are pronounced.

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