Tag Archives: Rob Brown

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
http://www.chicagoreader.com/TheBlog/archives/2010/10/12/steve-swell-and-mikolaj-trzaska-intimate-free-jazz-at-the-velvet-lounge-wednesday

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Touching Extremes reviw 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.

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.
http://touchingextremes.wordpress.com/2010/09/

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)

All About Jazz Italy review by Enrico Bettinello

CF 148Steve Swell –   Planet Dream (CF 148)
La costruzione di un processo creativo condiviso è sempre stata la centro dell’interesse del trombonista Steve Swell, musicista le cui notevoli qualità di improvvisatore non sempre trovano il giusto riconoscimento. Planet Dream, in trio con il sax contralto di Rob Brown e il violoncello di Daniel Levin, si muove proprio sulla condivisione delle traiettorie improvvisative, sulla creazione di un obbiettivo espressivo comune che si nutre delle identità dei singoli musicisti per aprirne il lessico all’inaspettato.
In questo senso, il preciso richiamo che Swell fa, nelle note di copertina, alla figura di William Parker [della cui Little Huey Creative Orchestra è, insieme a Brown, un componente fondamentale] è piuttosto eloquente: questo “pianeta dei sogni” è un luogo dove, nelle parole del musicista, “l’accettazione di se stessi, l’accettazione del cambiamento e l’accettazione degli altri con la loro musica e come l’aria che respiriamo”.

Alternando temi scritti a improvvisazioni libere, con una forte attitudine all’astrazione che viene però spesso ricondotta – attraverso un senso del blues lacerato e attualissimo nelle sue fibrillazioni—a un’umanità dai tratti riconoscibili, dolente [i glissando che sia il trombone che il violoncello usano in funzione espressionistica e vocalizzante] ma mai sfiduciata, il trio mette in atto una serie di strategie creative che, se talvolta non hanno nell’immediatezza il loro punto di forza, riescono comunque a non suonare mai autoreferenziali o aride.

A volte entrano in gioco richiami quasi inconsci [pensiamo ai fantasmi di Abdul Wadud e Julius Hemphill, stemperati da una rinnovata ibridazione del gesto] e una semplicità ancestrale, come nell’ostinarsi di “Airtight,” ma il piacere di ascolti ripetuti svela continui piani di scambio emotivo, oltre che sonoro. Non facilissimo in certi momenti e forse meno sognante di quanto non preannunci il titolo, ma davvero denso di musica.
http://italia.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=4267

Gapplegate review by Greco Edwards

CF 148Steve Swell – Planet Dream (CF 148)
Steve Swell, an Important Trombonist and Leader with a New CD

Following his very interesting Magical Listening Hour (Cadence Jazz), trombonist, composer and bandleader Steve Swell returns to the fray with a trio (including Rob Brown on alto sax and Daniel Levin on cello) that continues in the chamber format. The CD, Planet Dream (Clean Feed), in a sense takes up where Listening Hour leaves off, with spontaneous three-way improvisations. The addition of Steve’s lively compositional material and the denser, more contrapuntal texture gives the session a somewhat different sound, however.

Brown and Levin turn in good work and contrast nicely with Swell’s burrish, airborne bone. Both compositionally and as one of the foremost new jazz trombonists active today, Steve Swell never gives anything but his best. If there were a clunker CD trade-in deal out there, I doubt if anything Steve has done would qualify.

Planet Dream manages to combine sensitive free interplay with the excitement and drive of historically more widely disseminated styles of jazz. It’s one of the reasons we should look to Swell in the coming years as one of the handful of important musical leaders to emerge full-blown (no pun intended).
http://gapplegatemusicreview.blogspot.com/