Steve Swell's New York Brasswood Trio | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Steve Swell's New York Brasswood Trio



Trombonist Steve Swell has loved Roswell Rudd's slip-horn work since he first heard it, at 15, and playing in the occasional quartet with his idol after the once reclusive Rudd made his mid-90s comeback seemed to inspire him all over again. Swell already had a great bluesy, braying sound and a knack for punchy phrasing, but when he blew through town for a 3030 gig with his BrassWood Trio last spring, his articulation was dazzling, and it's just as good on the trio's recent Still in Movement (on CIMP, a label Swell records for often these days). On "Moon Gem" he pulls off some of the fancy lipwork trumpeters use to impress you with their chops, but it comes out sounding offhanded, almost conversational, pitched lower as it is, closer to the range of human speech. When bassist Tom Abbs picks up the tuba and drummer Geoff Mann the cornet for the sour intro to "Dance of the Stratonauts," they sound like the marching band from Carla Bley Tech, but the number really takes off when Mann moves back to his traps and gets the sticks bouncing off the snare in modified parade style. At best, the BrassWood recalls Barry Altschul's old trio with Ray Anderson and Mark Helias: "Walking the Ashcroft" has that unit's broad swagger, pushed along by Abbs's plump bass--which can pass as a low second horn when he takes his bow in hand. The trio splits this early slot at the Bottle with the Vandermark 5. Tuesday, September 30, 8 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/M.P. Landis.

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