The Bruce Swaim Quartet

Lucky Strikes

The Bruce Swaim Quartet tools around with everything from nostalgic swing to modern house-bop and plush romantic-jazz interludes on the band’s self-released recording Lucky Strikes. Recorded at Foxhaven Studios in Olney, Maryland and produced by the band’s bassist Paul Langosch along with their piano player Jay Cooley, Lucky Strikes bellows with an upbeat vibe that emanates from jazz clubs around the world.

There is an urban sophistication in front man/saxophonist Bruce Swaim’s style that radiates a wholesome nature, and a complimenting prose in the phrasing of Cooley’s keys that makes their synchronization agreeable even as the two rotate at different rates of speed and undercut each other’s improvisations. They rile up a dueling action that stimulates the rhythm section of Langosch and drummer Dominic Smith to partake in the events like in their rendition of Chick Corea’s perennial piece “Litha.” The rhythmic patterns lubricate the flow of the melodic surges so the compositions become the product of a well-oiled engine like the softly ruffled beats of Edward Heyman’s track “Blame It On My Youth” accentuated with tingling piano glissandos and slow cindering saxophone riffs.

Cooley’s piano work in Swaim’s original track “Blue” builds into fiery crescendos and recedes to a subdued flicker along Swaim’s rippling improvisations. There is a give and take between Swaim and Cooley that depicts a friendly tension as each works as a catalyst for the others. The torchlight glow of “Velas” produces succor aesthetics while the swing-flared blazes of “Mine Not Yours,” penned by Swaim, moves into Charles Parker’s territory with a full-bodied sound. Langosch applies an ointment of bluesy shimmers along “Up With The Lark” that propels the bop-voltage of Swaim’s saxophone, and drifts into a cool jazz gait along Julian Adderley’s tune “Spontaneous Combustion” as Swaim implements some fancy shuffling in his saxophone twirls while Cooley’s keys tippy toe along the melody’s path. The floral arrangement of curlicues in Cooley’s keys through “Blue” make this song come alive, and Cooley keeps an upbeat twinkle along Chick Corea’s “Captain Marvel’ as Swaim and company infuse a samba-jazz shimmy.

The foursome display a chemistry that comes out naturally. Each musician connects with the others on a plane that is intangible to the audience. Their arrangements endeavor to create a fun atmosphere for themselves and their audience, which makes the Bruce Swaim Quartet’s music conducive to the jazz club exuberance. Lucky Strikes indeed demonstrates the quartet’s accoutrements as live musicians, even though it is not a live album. Between the four of them, they have enough experience performing live as sidemen for other recording artists to fill up Yankee Stadium thirty times over.

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Susan Frances