January-1st-2004, 10:49 AM
Hartsell Cash, 1924-2006
Steve Swallow - Damaged in Transit
I do not think I am alone in my assessment of Chris Potter's dates as a leader, finding them somewhat directionless and uninspired at times, including his matchups with high-profile talents such as Unspoken. But on his sideman dates, for what reason I do not know (release from the pressures of being a leader?), Potter often delivers the goods, his head-to-heads with Robin Eubanks on Dave Holland's recent sides being the best-known examples.
To those I would add Steve Swallow's recent XtraWatt (distributed by ECM) release, Damaged in Transit. The disk documents Swallow's trio (w/Potter and Adam Nussbaum) during a tour of France in December of 2001. I don't know if the cuts are all from one performance or are just an example of really seamless editing (the notes don't get any more specific), but the set really flows well and presents a solid, unified whole during an end-to-end listen. Potter's playing is aggressive yet melodic, and he thrives in Swallow's deceptively structured settings. The openness of the format (tenor/bass/drums) gives Potter plenty of space to spread his wings, and he does so with confidence, with excellent results. On his own sides, I find his playing at times a bit flaccid, but here there is none of that. He solos vigorously and extensively - his intro to "Item 5" is a real highlight for me (as is the entire track). None of the nine tracks is named beyond "Item X, D.I.T.," where X is the number of the track on the album. The liner notes do not include any commentary as such, but they do contain the charts to all the tracks, which is revelatory, b/c a casual listening might make you think the setting is freer than it really is.
Swallow is an excellent bassist, and I think he and Nussbaum make an ever better pairing. I first heard them together on John Scofield's Shinola, but I haven't listened to much of either player in recent years. Swallow's tone is nice, clear and tight, with a punchy bottom to it. He's a surprisingly nimble and clean player for someone who plays electric with a plectrum (IMHO), and on the uptempo numbers he really drives the band along - there is no laying back in the pocket here. Nussbaum is in fine form as well, and he and Swallow interact nicely with each other and with Potter.
This is an excellent disk, one that went onto my best of 2003 list in a hurry.
January-1st-2004, 11:41 AM
I'll need to chack this one out. I've been underwhelmed by Potter on record, but have really enjoyed him live with the Holland 5tet and big band. Swallow is one of my favorite players so I'd expect to like this.
January-2nd-2004, 01:38 PM
Nice review, T. I bought the disc on your recommendation awhile back, and it has managed to crack my top 10 list also. Lovely session!
December-30th-2004, 09:55 AM
This has grown on me after some repeated attentive hearings on headphones while walking around in Paris looking for nice places/scenes and what have you to picture.
Thanks to Tanager and jazzfiend (perhaps there were others) for drawing attention to this. It took me about a year to come across a second hand copy so I'm only joining the non-discussion now. The inclusion of lead-sheets is nice too, if you're interested in that sort of thing (I am). Potter is not at his best but is pretty good throughout and mostly tries to build and develop instead of giving in to showing off chops-manship.
Last edited by gnhrtg; December-30th-2004 at 09:56 AM.