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Jazz Review Swell time with a jazz maestro

Steve Swell Quartet
The Vortex, London

IF FREE, improvising trombonism is the sonics of outrageous breath, the shivering slide work of Steve Swell that opens his quartet's gig at the Vortex is its epitome.

With the open-spirited US hornman are three powerful British musicians. The artist on drums is Mark Sanders, the arch-bassist John Edwards and pianist the protean Liam Noble. Free musical spirits indeed.

Edwards saws at his bass with the phenomenal energy of a jazz lumberjack and plucks his strings with a powerful resonance next to the endless inventive subtlety of Sanders's percussion, his sticks, brushes and mallets caressing and striking all the surfaces of his drum set and other nearby objects.

Watching his aural interplay is as compelling as listening to his timbral formulations and adventures in sound.

As for Swell, his browbeaten trombone holds a whole century of jazz history in its slides. His harsh, raw notes sometimes seem as if they're parading or protruding from a New Orleans tailgate. At others, it's as if he were kissing down his mouthpiece, blowing US love all over east London.

Noble plays a beautifully quiet and very slow sequence during the first long piece, as if he were creating melody itself, while Swell breathily guffaws, Sanders's cymbals ring and tinkle and Edwards's bow whines like the snow whirling in the wind outside.

It was that kind of living, breathing session.



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