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John Scofield has great respect for the Steve Swallow compositions / Musicalmemoirs

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John Scofield has long admired Steve Swallow, as a friend, a mentor and for his composer skills. A Libra, Swallow was born October 4, 1940 and is celebrated for his collaborations with Jimmy Giuffre, Gary Burton and Carla Bley.  He is lauded for being someone who stepped away from the upright bass and switched entirely to electric bass long before that was a popular decision for a jazz bassist to make.  He is legendary for his stylized use of the upper register on his electric bass and for embracing fusion music.  His original musical choices were piano and trumpet. However, at age fourteen, he was drawn to the acoustic bass.  His love of avant-garde jazz was inspired by working with the Paul Bley trio in 1960.  He recorded with George Russell also, and was a member of the Art Farmer quartet from 1962-65.  He followed that experience by joining the popular Stan Getz Band (1965-1967) and then became part of Gary Burton's quartet until 1970. Steve Swallow leapt into the fusion pool of music fearlessly.  His innovative playing and love of jazz combined to inspire him to become a respected composer.  John Scofield is one of Steve Swallow's longtime friends and fellow musicians.  One who has great respect for the Swallow compositions.  Consequently, he has reverently produced this album of Steve Swallow's music.

 

 

 John Scofield and his trio open with a Swallow composition titled, "She Was Young" that was originally set to a Robert Creeley poem as part of a National Endowment for the Arts grant.  This work was released on the ECM album, "Home" and the song was sung by Sheila Jordan.  Scofield shows his crystal-clear intention to establishing the pretty melody before venturing into his guitar improvisation.  Swallow walks his bass solidly beneath and Bill Stewart colors the song with drum artistry.

 

 

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"I love these songs.  Sometimes when we play it's like one big guitar, the bass part and my part together," John Scofield shared.

 

Speaking about his production in provided liner notes, Scofield explained:

 

"These two giants bring out the best in me.  Swallows compositions make perfect vehicles for improvisation.  The changes are always interesting.  They're grounded in reality with cadences that make sense.  They're never just intellectual exercises and they're so melodic.  They're all songs, rather than pieces.  They could all be sung."

 

"Behind the drum kit, Bill Stewart is alert to all implications and interactions.  What Bill does is more than playing the drums.  He's a melodic voice in the music, playing counterpoint and comping, while also swinging really hard," Scofield sings the praises of his drummer.

 

One of my favorite compositions that John Scofield has arranged is "Awful Coffee."  Those of us who are coffee drinkers have all experienced a cup of awful coffee.  Now, laughably, there's a musical sound track to this experience.  Swallow takes a melodic bass solo during this arrangement and John Scofield trades fours with Bill Stewart.  Swallow originally wrote this at an up-tempo pace, but Scofield has slowed it down, with Swallow's generous support.  Scofield has included the very first tune that Swallow ever penned, "Eiderdown."  It's been recorded several times by a variety of artists and the trio justifiably performs this one with gusto.  Another favorite of mine is the sensitive ballad titled, "Away."  One of the unusual things about this song is the introduction, that sounds like it could be a verse, yet it's only played once during the entire piece. 

 

"8 in F" is a straight-ahead composition that swings hard and features Stewart at the top with spicy drums firing the tune up like hot sauce.  Another favorite is the closing tune, "Radio" that John Scofield says is one of the more difficult songs to solo on because of the unique harmony employed and this song showcases Steve Swallows celebrated ‘broken time bass playing' style. 

 

All in all, if you love jazz guitar, outstanding compositions and a tight, cohesive trio interpreting the music, you will find this album to your liking.  A plus is that the concept is celebrating a legendary musician and composer whose music is being arranged and offered like diamond earrings for your ears.  Swallow's also contributing his iconic bass licks on this recording.  It's a win-win situation!