Steve Swell Lou Grassi’s Po Band: Mo Po’

The agile trombone of Steve Swell impressed in projects with Joey Baron and Philip Johnson’s Big Trouble. Here, his mastery ranges from mercurial duos with soprano sax player Chris Kelsey, to drummer Lou Grassi’s Po Band. Swell’s slippery improvisations with Kelsey (Observations) serves to make the lyrical interludes sound the more intense, notably the heavy spiritual passages in “Charlie Parker Did Not Want To Be Worshipped Like a God.” Veteran Roswell Rudd joins Swell on Out And About to make music at a velocity that trombones were never designed for. The band swings “Moves” and “Start Up” while in “Walking the Dog” a snatch of “Satin Doll” leads into a free-form wah-wah dialogue that shows how potent the vintage growl tradition of early Ellington sounds after 70 years. Wonderful proof of why Out and About is a substantial feast for lovers of adventurous trombone. Moons of Jupiter shows Swell’s quartet at its most vibrant and exciting — Swell’s most consistent CD yet. Despite the cool abstractions of the three part title track, it’s a chance to hear Swell stretch out in the extended chase of “Air Play” and escalating energy of “Train Ride” that makes Mo Po’ so compelling. Hearing Swell combine with Herb Robertson (trumpet) and Perry Robinson (clarinet) to create music, from vibrant polyphony to relaxed magic, is wonderful confirmation of why improvising is a communal as well as a solo art. (CIMP)