Music Reviews

The Swallow Quintet

Into The Woodwork


Xtra Watt

Formats available: CD

Steve Swallow is a bass player and partner of the organ player Carla Bley, her sound is as much a key to this album as Swallow’s, it creates the ambiance. The bass is brought to the fore as you might expect but it doesn’t compete with the lyrical skills of Bley, Chris Cheek on tenor and Steve Cardenas on guitar. Drums, provided by Jorge Rossy, are the only instruments dedicated to rhythm. The organ provides the smoky, late night feel, the lounge lizard vibe that pervades most of this often louche album. It reminds me of Swordfishtrombones by Tom Waits albeit sans vocals, the feel is the same even if the tunes are sometimes more dense. Most are played at a medium or relaxed pace, a tempo which allows Cardenas in particular to shine and I don’t think that’s just because I prefer guitar to sax, jazz guitar is not usually my bag.
Xtra Watt is a Swallow’s own label and part of the ECM group but the sound is quite different from that usually found with ECM studio recordings, warmer, closer and well suited to the lounge feel of the band. Swallow himself plays superbly with a weighty but nimble sound that doesn’t hog the limelight but provides a sinuous groove around which the rest of the band can orbit. Into the Woodwork reveals the diversity of Swallow’s writing abilities and has a great vibe, he’s no ordinary bass player that’s for sure.


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