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Steve Swell: Slammin’ the Infinite

French jazz critic Hugues Panassie often quoted Charlie Parker’s observation “bop is no love-child of jazz; it is something entirely separate and apart.” That neatly segues to Steve Swell’s latest creation, Slammin’ the Infinite (Cadence). Classification is elusive despite obvious expertise by the quartet: trombonist Swell composed and arranged everything; Sabir Mateen is a one-man reed section; bassist Matthew Heyner contributes some interesting sul ponticello and Klaus Kugel bangs the drums. The problem is there are so few bar lines and tonal centers that one longs for more structure. All solo work is impressive, but heads are sloppy. The most colorful track, “Voices From the Asphalt,” is an impressionistic tour de force utilizing Swell’s plunger work and Mateen’s deft flute. “East Village Meet and Greet” typifies the oxymoronic “organized chaos.” Mateen opens it with a thoughtful solo clarinet; Swell enters with his gutsy tone yet everything is still rhapsodic. By the time the rhythm is added, it becomes an 11-minute study in crescendo going nowhere-except back to Berklee walking by the rehearsal rooms, absorbing the cacophony.

Originally Published