Wednesday, June 24, 2020

John Scofield / Steve Swallow / Bill Stewart – Swallow Tales (ECM, 2020)

Guitarist John Scofield makes a barn burning straight ahead jazz album, performing the music of his friend and colleague, bassist and composer Steve Swallow, with the drummer Bill Stewart rounding out the trio. Spontaneously recorded in one afternoon in New York City during March of 2019, the trio makes these compositions come alive, and Scofield sounds absolutely inspired, playing driven and powerful solos. "Radio" is a sweet and swinging number with graceful bass and drums and a medium uptempo flavor. Scofield digs deeply into the theme of the tune, using the material to craft a short but memorable solo statement while Swallow's electric bass grooves along beside him, taking a brief solo of his own while Stewart plays lightly on his cymbals. There's a choppy introduction to "In F" with a lot of room for Stewart's agile drumming, and the band explores the territory in an interesting fashion, playing in tight formation, Swallow soloing while keeping low to the ground, and everyone returning to a fine sendoff. "Eidertown" was apparently Swallow's first composition, and they really go to town on it, stretching out with a powerful guitar solo from the leader where the overall interplay between the band members is very impressive and a fine drum solo is included to boot. There is a knotty theme on "Portsmouth Figurations" for the trio to work with, allowing them much room to move, with Scofield showering sparks on the flowing bass and drums. "Falling Grace" allows light and fleet movement throughout the melody then branching out, with Scofield adding shards of crisp notes that are very well articulated, as the bass and drums simmer too. He uses a wonderfully sharp and stinging tone at times that is a real attention grabber, as is Swallow's own solo stance patient and thoughtful, framed well by the two other musicians. "She Was Young" begins gently and in a touching manner with light brushes and soft guitar tone. The music gradually develops in pace and structure, as they stretch out their improvisation at a fine medium tempo that allows for a lot of creativity. This was an excellent album of modern mainstream jazz, with inspired playing and improvising and superb communication and empathy between the musicians. Swallow Tales - amazon.com

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