Aug 12, 2013
CD releases by Steve Swallow as a bandleader are few and far between. While he is constantly in demand as a sideman, with steady gigs on the bandstand with the likes of Gary Burton and Carla Bley, only 2 albums in the last 15 years can truly be called his as a frontman. That’s part of what makes Into the Woodwork, a quintet recording released on his WATT imprint via ECM, so welcome.
The terrific band interplay, shifting textures and moods and wit of the recording makes the CD a winner. Working with his partner Carla Bley on organ (a welcome return after her concentration on piano for the past decade) and long-time collaborators Steve Cardenas on guitar, Chris Cheek on sax and Jorge Rossy on drums, Swallow has formed a band that fits together with a relaxed sense of togetherness. The band has toured together over the past few years, and their sense of timing and collaboration shines. Swallow’s electric bass provides some of the finest textures and tones in the business, and the twelve Swallow originals flow together in an uninterrupted stream.
I spoke with Steve as Into the Woodwork was released, and we talked about his creative process, the strengths of this band, and how he came to play electric bass in a time of double bass domination. Podcast 369 features our conversation, with appropriate musical selections, including:
The Swallow Quintet – “Back in Action”, “Grisly Business” and “Still There” from Into the Woodwork. These tracks show the band capable of shifting from moodiness to playfulness, sometimes within seconds. Swallow calls Jorge Rossy’s drum fills on the second tune perhaps the “scariest drum solo ever”. Check it out and see why.
Steve Cardenas – “D. Marie” from Panoramic. Cardenas’ guitar is a huge part of the quintet’s success. Coming into his own as one of the most versatile and interesting guitar players in the business, he and Swallow met in Paul Motian’s bands and have continued to play together. This wonderfully lyrical track features Cardenas (guitar), Tony Malaby (saxophone), Larry Grenadier (bass), and Kenny Wollesen (drums)
Gary Burton/Pat Metheny/Steve Swallow/Antonio Sanchez – “Falling Grace” from Quartet Live! One of Swallow’s strongest compositions was a highlight of this reunion tour set list from 2008-09.
Gary Burton & Carla Bley – “Fanfare - Mother of the Dead Man” from A Genuine Tong Funeral. From 1967 to 1970, Swallow teamed with Gary Burton and a number of other musicians to create electric jazz. Some argue that Duster was truly the first fusion album, created by Burton, Swallow, Larry Coryell and Roy Haynes a full two years before Miles went electric . This track is from the album composed and conducted by Ms. Bley, and featuring a larger ensemble, including Burton (vibes), Bley (organ and piano), Coryell (guitar), Swallow (bass), Steve Lacy and Gato Barbieri (sax), Jimmy Knepper (trombone), Howard Johnson (tuba and baritone sax), Michael Mantler (trumpet) and Bob Moses (drums).