STEVE SWELL – The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Improviser


Pick against a trombonist when considering the ability of defeating boredom through sheer inventiveness during an improvisation, and you’re most probably in for a severe beating of your foolishness. Then again, when it comes to Steve Swell there’s nothing we can do much better than listening in awe. The man belongs at the very top of the mountain of trombone mastery in virtue of the completeness of his approach and the absolute enjoyableness of anything coming out of those tubes and valves. This splendidly titled album chronicles several of Swell’s selfless colloquies with instantaneous inspiration, and constitutes an eloquent showcase of what he can do all alone. Which is impressive, to say the least.

A player endowed with confidence, humor and varicolored micro-melodicism, Swell extracts useful materials even from what could initially be misinterpreted as “extraneous noise”. In a piece such as “Percolation Demonstration” he throws regular (sort of) tones together with mockingly cantankerous jabs that live at the border between noxious ventilation and distorted realism. Elsewhere, quick flurries are followed by one or two almost detached long notes, and animal blather is complemented by implausible intervallic jumps across the instrument’s register (check “Cogitation” for reference). Talkative monotony is aurally portrayed in ways that recall Hungarian cartoons (if you have never watched Gustavus, go to YouTube right now and thank me later). In essence, the multitude of images and influences informing this artist’s creative prowess reassure us about the extant possibility of a coexistence of complex attractiveness and jesting intelligence. Both Swell and the acoustic revitalization he brings with this kind of work will always be warmly greeted guests in this tired writer’s home and ears.

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