July/August 2007

Steve Swell/David Taylor Quartet
Double Diploid
CIMP Recordings

A trombonist, bass trombonist and two percussionists are the sole musicians on Double Diploid, but too much sound swirls around on the disc for a phrase like “stripped down” or “spare” to come into play. Warren Smith and Chad Taylor each split time between trap kits and vibraphones, in at least one case playing both simultaneously. The two brassmen who lead the session introduce compositions that change shape and texture.

“Geological Time Line” requires a crank of the volume knob, since it begins with two pitched metronomes droning softly in harmony, upon which a harmonic soundscape slowly takes shape. Swell’s “Cessation of Your Expectation” features three countermelodies, a bit of blues and some aggressive vibes work from Smith. The title track offers the album’s strangest moment as the group’s recitations of writings by Hippocrates and Charles Darwin compete with a sea of bells and a bit of melody, all of it sounding very busy, amusing and vaguely reminiscent of early Art Ensemble productions. “False Strung Saddle” begins with a New Orleans second-line rhythm only to morph into something more exotic when Smith begins doubling on balaphon and vibes. The strength of Swell’s and Taylor’s writing and musical personalities make the proceedings both challenging and enthralling.

Originally published in July/August 2007
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