Yeah No Swell Henry

Boldly stating that this record is jazz for those who don't like jazz, this album is in fact completely successful. Most tunes would make fantastic guitar and drum pieces, but here they're expressed through leader Chris Speed’s tenor sax and clarinet and cohort Cuong Vu’s trumpet. There is no hint of jazz rhythm at all in the bass and drums. Skulli Sverrisson's bass often lays down bass lines that groove on one note, sometimes one chord, and in this way he acts as the rhythm guitar or piano, dictating the changes everyone else follows. Speed and Vu can be going through some complex, interleaved Balkan-spiked improvisations through suite-like compositions, but they always follow the bass changes. Jim Black's drums are just wonderful: no matter how complex the rhythm he knows how to find the deepest and simplest part of the groove, even when things are moving along in a klezmer-like 7/8 time as with "Born in the Air." There is a whole pile of influences at work here; "Cloud Stopper" sounds like something Milton Nascimento might have written, "Flanked" has a Schlippenbach-type arrangement over a near-hardcore rhythm section and "He Has a Pair of Dice" is pure Ornette Coleman. Other unconventional touches are the frequent use of accordion and mellotron, to provide a psychedelic feel to some tracks. Swell Henry never feels like wanton genre-hopping; while everyone here is very knowledgeable about different forms of music, at heart, they’re just rocking out. (Squealer)