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November 2000

Steve Swallow
Always Pack Your Uniform on Top
XTRA/Watt

The evidence indicates that Steve Swallow is a travelin' man: this release was recorded on the road at Ronnie Scott's venerable club in Soho. To call him a journeyman bassist would fall far short of his due: His is an irrepressible musical personality that suffuses any piece he touches. He has cultivated a unique sound, finding character in the bass guitar that few players can even imagine.
His gifts as a composer is equally evident in this set-and he emphasizes that dimension of his art by including lead sheets for each of the six selections on Uniform. He tailors the repertoire to the ensemble-very different in these examples. Swallow brought along Chris Potter on tenor sax, Barry Ries on trumpet, Mick Goodrick on guitar and Adam Nussbaum on drums-a terrific band in which Ries' fine performance is all but overwhelmed by the remarkable performances of his colleagues. The set opens with "Bend Over Backward," a piece of counterpoint and whimsy that opens with a lengthy Swallow exposition that becomes a conversation with the ever apposite Potter. "Misery Loves Company" is wonderfully ambiguous in its 6 against 4 feel, and "Reinventing the Wheel" goes the cycle of fifths one better-liters, maybe? Throughout, the ensemble work is outstanding, with Goodrick and Nussbaum in constant touch.

Originally published in November 2000
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