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Into the Woodwork: Steve Swallow Quintet

A quintet with electric guitar, electric bass and organ-this thing is going to cook with grease, right? Wrong. Bassist Steve Swallow had a more sophisticated sort of jazz in mind when he assembled tenor saxophonist Chris Cheek, guitarist Steve Cardenas, drummer Jorge Rossy and pianist Carla Bley, who returned to organ for this project at Swallow’s suggestion.

From the first notes of the first tune, “Sad Old Candle,” it is clear that this is not your typical guitar-and-organ band. The composition feels more like classical than like anything approaching swing. That changes as the group segues into “Into the Woodwork,” which does, in fact, swing within a hard-bop framework. Part of Swallow’s mission, it seems, is to punch a hole in assumptions, and he does that much in the way that organist Larry Young did half a century ago. Across these dozen tunes, all written by Swallow, we hear five brilliant musicians in cohesion. The pianist just happens to be playing organ.

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