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Steve Swallow: Deconstructed

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“Name That Tune” is not only just one of the fine compositions featured on bassist Steve Swallow’s latest venture, it also states the underlining premise of this inventive conceptual outing that invites the listener to unearth the harmonic and structural blueprints that inform these new compositions all based upon classic Tin Pan Alley song structures. Swallow has brilliantly chiselled out the bones and bloods of yester-year’s showtunes and reconfigured them into delightful offsprings that are brimming with imagination, sensuality, and swing.

The down side is that his reworkings are so masterful, that the listener must have a Tin Pan Alley fetish (which I don’t have) and/or acutely trained ears to succeed in Swallow’s lofty game. Fortunately, Swallow’s compositions have such an undeniable allure and ear-catching immediacy that they do not disenfranchise the listener. The calypso laden groove of “Bug In A Rug,” gives testimony to sublime deconstructing. Propelled by Swallow’s customary liquid basslines and slightly metallic timbral palette and Adam Nussbaum’s contagious syncopating shuffle, “Bug In A Rug” affords the perfect springboard for guitarist Mick Goodrick, trumpeter Ryan Kisor and tenor saxophonist Chris Potter to boast sweet and soulful harmonies and vibrant solos that will forever dance in your head. “I Think My Wife Is A Hat” not only displays Swallow’s penchant for romantic balladry it also showcases his keen mastery of tonalities. The combined sound of Swallow’s cobalt harmonies and Goodrick’s golden-laced guitar comping yield an otherworldly sonic carpet for Kisor’s tip-toeing muted trumpet musings and Potter’s luxurious tenor crooning.

Regardless of the brainy nature of Deconstructed, which in lesser hands would have been “kitschy” collection of half-baked clones, it’s without a doubt one of the catchiest musical experiments of the year.