Friday, April 09, 2010

Steve Swell's Slammin' the Infinite - 5000 Poems (Not Two, 2010)

This is an album of stirring and well played free jazz from a crack ensemble which features Steve Swell on trombone, Sabir Mateen on saxophones, clarinets and flute, John Blum on piano, Matthew Heyner on bass and Klaus Kugel on drums. The disc features several long improvisations, but the musicians always keep things interesting and things never fall into tedium. Mateen is the key to the success of the album, he shifts between a battery of instruments with a Sam Rivers like fluidity. "Not Their Kind" opens the album with strutting urgently played horns over strong piano comping. Mateen breaks through for a squeaking and leaping saxophone solo that is very exciting, powerful and free. Switching to flute for "Sketch 1" Mateen and Blum engage in a very interesting flute and piano dialogue. Light trombone and drums flesh out the performance further before a bowed bass solo takes things out rumbling and low. "Where are the Heartfelt?" has a medium tempo group statement that sets the stage for Mateen to move out over a pocket of piano, bass and drums. Trombone and tenor saxophone come together to improvise in a fast and exciting fashion, and then there is a feature for a dark tones piano trio interlude. "The Only Way Out" features Mateen on bass clarinet, he has a swooping and leaping sound and the instrument gets a dark and earthy tone. On this performance, the group improvises collectively at a fast pace, fast but not loud, and listening to each other carefully. "The Darkness Afoot" conludes the album with an open ended and abstract improvisation, the focuses on the patient and probing percussion of Kugel and Heyner's thick and resonant bass.5000 Poems - amazon.com

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