After moving to New York City from Jersey City in the 1970’s trombonist Steve Swell has played everything from Broadway tunes to ecstatic free jazz blowouts. This is one of the latter, with his large improvising ensemble Nation of We, 22 members strong, caught blowing up a storm at the New York City jazz venue Roulette. This is a long, continuous 70+ minute set with the music ebbing and flowing through different passages and configurations of instruments and featuring some very talented soloists like the saxophonists Darius Jones and Sabir Mateen and Matt LaVelle on trumpet. The music moves from riotous free blowing sections to those of abstract subtle quiet and even a spoken word recitation. Building potential energy like a roller coaster the band roars down to begin the disc with collective improvisation and solo sections in which the rest of the ensemble frames and supports to soloist. The music is very powerful but never out of control, somewhat akin to Sam Rivers' Rivbea Orchestra or William Parker’s Little Huey Big Band. The large ensemble builds a lot of trust and there is a great deal of give and take among the musicians, building a web of sound that can be quite intricate. Part of the thrill of this recording is listening to the musicians create in the moment mindfully, aware of the structure and scaffolding of the writing, but free to make their own interpretation. The ensemble sections are tight and the solos are very impressive, making for a very exciting and hypnotic performance. The Business of Here - iTunes
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Joe McPhee – Flowers (Cipsela, 2016) *****
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