Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Steve Swell, Gebhart Ullmann, Desert Songs, 2004

The thing about most, if not all of the music covered in this blog is that it does not expire. The CD package does not provide a "good until [x date]" notice on it. If the music is worthwhile, it will fill your ears for far longer than a single season, and not as an oldie either. So if I am only now reviewing a CD from 2004, it is with the idea that the music contained within it is timeless.

We are talking about the Gebhard Ullmann-Steve Swell Quartet and their Desert Songs and Other Landscapes (CIMP). I'll tell you why I think this recording is important. First off, it has a really dynamic and exciting series of interactions between Ullmann on tenor or bass clarinet and Swell on the trombone. Gebhard may not be all that familiar to many listeners, but listen to his command and fluidity on this one and you'll wonder why. Steve Swell is the modern trombonist personified. He has great tonal range, power and very inventive and eloquent improvisational vocabulary, all in great evidence here.

Second, this recording features drummer Barry Altschul in fine form. He has a busy style that pushes the band mercilessly and inspires the front line to ever greater heights of energy and inspiration. Since his halcyon days as a key member of Circle, then the Braxton and Rivers groups and finally in a series of recordings with his own bands, he established himself as one of the premier drummers of the new music. In the period that followed, at least in the States, he wasn't quite as visible (or I should say, audible). This recording surely helps re-establish Mr. Altschul at the forefront and you can hear how his playing has developed considerably as well. Bassist Hilliard Greene fits right in with everything and meshes with Barry in classic free-form fashion.

Third and finally, the compositional frameworks, improvising routines and overall ambiance of this record make for a superior session. Things are just right for a meaningful gathering, and that's just what takes place. See the CIMP link on this page for more info.

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