Friday, February 05, 2021

Steve Swell - The Center Will Hold (Not Two Records, 2021)

This is a very exciting and well articulated modern jazz band, with an interesting range of instruments that allows for a rich and varied palette of sound. The group is made up of the leader and composer of the tracks, Steve Swell on trombone, Jason Kao Hwang on violin, viola and electronics, Ariel Bart on harmonica, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello and electronics, Robert Boston on piano and organ and featured musician, Andrew Cyrille on drums and percussion. With a couple of the members doubling on electronics, the music has a wide ranging and continuously developing atmosphere, where the proceedings certainly are anchored in jazz and free jazz but willing to go anywhere their electro-acoustic improvisations took them. The entire group as a whole is excellent, but I was particularly impressed with the harmonica player, Ariel Bart. I am used to hard hitting Chicago blues harp playing, and often find jazz harmonica playing limpid and uninspired. Bart on the other hand is surprising throughout the recording, whether in support or soloing, with strong technique and deep imagination. But really, the whole recording works like a charm from Swell’s blustery trombone leads to Lonberg-Holm’s always unpredictable cello and jolts of electronic work. Holding it all together is the legendary drummer Andrew Cyrille, playing in his unique loose and multi rhythmic style that supports and encourages the music from beginning to end. The Center Will Hold -

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