Tag Archives: Planet Dream

Chicago Reader article by Peter Margasak

Steve Swell and Mikolaj Trzaska: Intimate Free Jazz at the Velvet Lounge Wednesday
New York trombonist Steve Swell is one of improvised music’s most tireless figures, a musician who seems to take sustenance from working constantly in countless contexts, both as leader and sideman. His calling card is blustery, hard-charging free jazz—the kind of energy music he’s been playing for two decades with the likes of William Parker, Rob Brown, Rob Mazurek, and Gebhard Ullman. Swell is bandleader of several projects, most with shifting personnel, and one of the most interesting—and certainly the most germane to his performance Wednesday night at the Velvet Lounge with Polish reedist Mikolaj Trzaska—is a trio outing from last year called Planet Dream (Clean Feed CF 148 ).

Also featuring alto saxophonist Brown and cellist Daniel Levin, the album contains a mix of fully improvised pieces and knotty postbop tunes by Swell, and in every case the emphasis is on fleet give-and-take interaction. Because there’s no drummer, the music is superficially less aggressive than most energy music, but it’s hardly placid; all three participants can kick up dust with lines that move almost blindingly fast, and Levin’s pizzicato sometimes approximates a percussionist’s role. With his fat, brawny tone, Swell can make himself heard through the thickest of dins, but here he accommodates the relative intimacy instead of treading on the rest of the ensemble—though a piece like “Juxtsuppose” proves they can also make a mighty noise.

Mikolaj Trzaska
Trzaska made his first visit to Chicago in November 2008 at the Umbrella Music Festival, in a trio with bassist Kent Kessler and drummer Michael Zerang. A veteran of the Gdansk scene, he also operates the Kilogram label and has developed an international profile over the past decade, playing and recording with the likes of Peter Brötzmann, Joe McPhee, Johannes Bauer, and Ken Vandermark—he’s part of the Chicagoan’s Resonance Project, which launched in Krakow three years ago and also includes Swell. Considering the company he keeps, it’s not surprising that he favors a blistering, high-energy attack, but he’s got a broader range than that. On the album Nadir & Mahora (Kilogram), cut with Zerang and Swiss cellist Clementine Gasser, Trzaska is relatively restrained and lyrical on alto and C-melody saxophones—though his playing, marked by a tightly coiled lines that lash the air like wind-snapped cables, remains intense even when he dials things down.

Swell and Trzaska will play as a duo and then be joined by a number of Chicagoans, including reedist Dave Rempis, drummer Frank Rosaly, and vibist Jason Adasiewicz.
Steve Swell photo by John Rogers

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

STEVE SWELL – Planet Dream (CF 148)
A set of complex compositions and a few improvisations that at times sound as vivaciously articulate as a drunken teacher’s excursion in front of blank-eyed pupils, elsewhere giving a chance to the protagonists for starting their own brand of Pindaric flight, always with technically impeccable flamboyance but, alas, only occasionally warming this listener’s heart. Trombonist Steve Swell looks at Planet Dream as a sort of utopia, a world where complete self-expression is warranted and people are accepted for what they are. Cellist Daniel Levin and alto saxophonist Rob Brown are happy to help the nominal leader in this vision, the instruments entwined in a series of mainly talkative constructions that result rambunctious, mildly impertinent, bluesy, once in a blue moon solemn and, not infrequently, overwrought. It’s not a matter of recognition of singular personalities: all three are very fine musicians, and listening to unquestionable abilities is okay. What leaves us pondering at what could have been made differently is the dearth of introspective vibration, in that the music seems to expose a bit of coldness rather than really involve. There are moments in which the mind appreciates some measure of relief, and in this particular record the blend of eagerness and spotless virtuosity tends to suffocate the soul, ultimately turning a meeting of champions into a semi-sterile round table characterized by an inclination to speak concurrently, the risk being that of stifling the constructive words that are pronounced.

Cadence Magazine review by David Dupont

Steve Swell – Planet Dream (CF 148)
Trombonist Swell’s Planet Dream emphasizes the ensemble. Swell alternates collective improvisations with tracks based on composed themes. And though it’s completely acoustic, there’s plenty of electricity in the proceedings. These are tightly argued discussions. On “Not Necessarily This, Nor That,” cellist Daniel Levin opens with an arco statement that poses a series of questions. Swell and alto saxophonist Rob Brown enter in disputatious moods, and the discussion only grows more pointed, full of rips and snarls, until it seems to exhaust itself. Levin gets the last word. On “#2 of Nine” Brown opens by working a little two-note jump, and Swell answers with the retrograde drop. On the mournful “And Then They Wept,” the trio demonstrate how, even on a collective improvisation, they can phrase together. This session also got me thinking about the way certain turns of phrase—kind of atonal but pulling toward a tonic—start seeming familiar, due to the work of players (including Swell) to refine as well as expand the procedures of Free Jazz. The date opens with a formless passage that the ensemble slowly gives shape to.. And in the middle of Planet Dream Swell drops “Airtight,” a piece that grooves over an Afro-beat ostinato, the Free Jazzer’s equivalent of a medium tempo Blues. That’s not to say anything here sounds stale, just more predictable than maybe I’d expect. And it’s not to say there’s not much that’s fresh within the program. Swell’s searching for new approaches is shown in the closing “Texture #2” which shape shifts every couple minutes or so. Such restlessness fuels Swell and his trio in their fruitful search for new sounds.
©Cadence Magazine 2010 www.cadencebuilding.com

Planet Dream in Concert (CF 148)