Steve Swell - Live at the Bowery Poetry Club

Richard Moule, Signal To Noise

Trombonist Steve Swell has assembled a 16 piece big-band of "cross-over" musicians, bringing together improvisers from different musical camps all over New York. That's no surprise coming from a guy who's played not only with jazz musicians like Tim Berne, Lou Grassi, and Kevin Norton, but also with Alan Licht and Rob Mazurek in the electro-acoustic project Mandarin Movie. More importantly, Swell is a member of William Parker's Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra and Jemeel Moondoc's Jus Grew Orchestra and in his early years apprenticed with big band pioneers like Buddy Rich and Lionel Hampton, so he's familiar with the complexity and organizational demands of a large group. The spirit of each can be heard in the Nation of We. Indeed, many of the invitees, including Roy Campbell, Rob Brown, Lewis Barnes, Sabir Mateen, Peter Zurnmo, Jackson Krall, Matthew Heyner and Todd Nicholson, have also been a part of Moondoc and Parker's big bands. Live At The Bowery Poetry Club consists of a four-part 60-minute suite, entitled "Declaration of Interdependence", an idea derived from philosopher Will Durant to foster respect, tolerance and peace. Yet this "Declaration" is a rambunctious, hard-blowing affair: robust, corporeal and free-wheeling, full of clamourous brass, driving rhythms and plenty of honk and skronk. "Part 2" provides a breather, featuring a long duet by Heyner and Nicholson. Swell may be the bandleader (and he does take a long, gruff solo on "Part 4") but all the players are given solo space to stretch out. The only knock against this recording is the low mix of the piano, whether poorly miced or simply lost in the overwhelming surge of the rest of the band.