Swallow/Talmor/Nussbaum Playing in Traffic Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Its strongest point is its deeply sustained moodiness.

Martin Longley 2010

Tenor saxophonist Ohad Talmor is the unknown factor here, flanked by the much more familiar Steve Swallow (electric bass) and Adam Nussbaum (drums). Even so, it's ultimately the Israeli Talmor who gets to dominate the trio's sound. Swallow and Talmor had already produced their sextet album L'Histoire Du Clochard in 2004, and this present trio has been together since 2008.

The album's pieces are divided into 'out' and 'in', although this doesn't really refer to their relative wildness. The 'out' tracks were recorded live at Xopana Jazz on the Portuguese island of Madeira, while the 'in' material was laid down in a New York studio. Talmor has been living in Brooklyn for years, and is now an American citizen. These latter NYC works include a goodly number of very short sketches, either just over or just under a minute in length, caught with microphones up-close, in contrast with the more opened-out Madeira selections.

The album begins with Swallow's determinedly walking bassline, followed by Nussbaum's brushed snare, padding gracefully alongside. This title-track represents the archetypal essence of jazz itself, a traditional grappling with bebop agility. Talmor's golden-hued tone has a featherweight quality. His graceful precision suggests that he's probably been listening to Jimmy Giuffre and Gerry Mulligan. The trio's music is sparse, yet powerfully poised. Airy yet meaty, light yet earthy.

Swallow and Talmor are the chief composers, providing most of the tunes between them. The pieces don't so much fixate on linear melody, but rather contribute a perpetually evolving line of musicality. Repetition is not desirable. There's a suspended tenderness to Days of Old, a breathiness in the delivery. The immediately following Adam and Steve comes as a jolt: 42 seconds of spiky staggering from Nussbaum and Swallow. Then, it's back to mellow with Here Comes Everybody, the trio embracing the listener once more. A degree of constantly tumbling abstraction evolves, and by its end, this tune has developed a robust swagger.

Quiet Inside is a slink. Talmor's seductive vibrato is carefully controlled. Undress Under Duress involves further diaphanous doings, with Talmor sweetly sustaining his high notes whilst Nussbaum makes melodic skin patterns with his carefully-tuned drums. Warmer in Heaven is shiftily lyrical, then the disc closes out with the wiry and outgoing Up Too Late. The album is episodic in nature, with its short pieces, its stylistic swerves and its varying moods. At just under 47 minutes, it also has an old-school vinyl length, adding to the edited highlights feeling. Its strongest point is its deeply sustained moodiness.

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