CD Review By Bruce Lee Gallnater, Downtown Music Gallery
Featuring Steve Swell on trombone, PEK on clarinets, saxes, double reeds, taragato, metal & voice, Glynis Lomon cello & voice, Steve Norton on clarinets & saxes and Yuri Zbitnov on drums & metal. In August of this year (2015), the Boston-area based group Leap of Faith came to New York for a weekend to play two gigs. On Saturday, they played at the New Revolution Arts series in Brooklyn and on Sunday at DMG. Both nights followed the same format of Leap of Faith proper, a guest playing solo and then the guest & Leap of faith playing together. This disc features a solo set from Steve Swell and another set with Leap of Faith and Mr. Swell together. The opening set by Leap of Faith alone is found on another recently released CD.
This disc begins with Steve Swell playing solo trombone, generally a rarity although Mr. Swell did release his first solo CD last month. Mr. Swell begins slowly, bending those fluttering notes with breath-like sounds. Swell carefully manipulates each sound, each note is used to great effect. The set evolves organically. The combined set features the main quartet version of Leap of Faith with PEK on reeds, Gkynis Lomon on cello, Steve Norton on reeds and Yuri Zbitnov on drums with Mr. Swell on trombone.
You can tell that this group has been playing for many years since they have their own distinctive sound. Alien yet familiar, bizarre yet completely fascinating. Expanding, contracting, erupting, settling down, always as one force. Mr. Zbitnov is in fine form here on drums, the center of the storm directing the energy of flow as it soars and then comes back down to the earth. There is an incredible section here that is over-the-top yet knows when to let up before it evolves into some crazed screams. The audience for this set was perhaps 10 to 15 folks. We all knew something special, transcendent was happening. This disc captures that set just right. Lucky us. Out of their dozens of discs, this is one of the best! - Bruce Lee Gallanter
Leading avant jazz trombonist Steve Swell joins together with the Boston-based Leap of Faith group for Factorizations (Evil Clown 9075). The set was recorded at New Revolution Arts in Brooklyn in August of 2013.
Essentially Steve gives us a wide-ranging unaccompanied solo for the first half and Leap of Faith joins him for the remainder. Pek is the ensemble's leader and plays clarinet, a variety of saxes, voice, etc. Glynis Lomon is on cello and voice, Steve Norton is on clarinets and saxes and Yuri Zbitnov appears on drums and metallic objects.
The Swell solo segment gives Steve plenty of space to work out sound-color effusions and then some soulfully out motives, reminding us why he remains a central figure on New York's new jazz scene.
The full-band segment is a fully free outburst with great color and contrasts born of the intersection of Swell, the reeds, cello and percussion. The out-lining group phrasing is expressively advanced, noisy at times in the best sort of way, and filled with an excellent give-and-take. Swell spurs on Leap of Faith to their best and vice-versa. This is a fine excursion into collective breadth and musical avant power.
If you soar with out collectivity and appreciate it when the architectural inventiveness of such things reaches orbital heights, this one is for you. And of course if you appreciate great trombone in the zone, this puts Steve in a good place as well. More!
You can find this on Bandcamp among other places.
Stills Extracted from Video by Kevin Reilly
Videos by Kevin Reilly
Photos by Shirley Grohs
Leap of Faith with Steve Swell at New Revolution Arts, Brooklyn 8/15/2015
Here's a take on what happened at New Revolution Arts in Brooklyn last weekend, where Boston's Leap of Faith and NYC's Steve Swell brought their unique sounds to an intimate and appreciative audience.
Leap of Faith does not travel light, and if you have a chance to see them perform, you are in for an multi-sensory experience. From the incredibly detailed discography and many CD's available at the well stocked merch table to the rich visual spectacle of instruments festooning the playing area, this is a group that comes prepared.
The show begins with the start of a timer - a large digital clock that counts up for the next 40 minutes, indicating the length of each of the three sets of the evening. The concert then follows this pattern: a guest artist opens, then Leap of Faith plays, and finally, the two groups combined play. It is within all of this set-up and structure that the planning gives way to the pure improvised music (and some unusual sounds) that pours forth.
On this night, trombonist Steve Swell opened with two reflective solo pieces. Abstract and quiet at first, both improvisations unfolded to the ticking of an internal metronome. Towards the end of the first piece, Swell locked into a pattern that the audience responded to with satisfied and knowing smiles.
Next up, the Leap of Faith quartet worked thorough a constant flow of ideas, a spectrum of sound that toyed with consonance and dissonance. Comprised of woodwind players David Peck (PEK) and Steve Norton, cellist Glynnis Lomon, and percussionist Yuri Zbitnov, the group acted as a unit, creating a unique sonic world of textures and combinations of timbers and sonorities. The two woodwinds, sometimes butting up against each other, other times in complete agreement, kept things flowing, while the cello was often a focal point. One particularly effective passage occurred when both Norton and Peck reached for their Eb contra-alto clarinets and created a lush sonic bed for Lomon's dissonant double stops. The set was one long improvisation, with a series of climaxes, and ultimately an extended percussion solo passage brought the whole event to fulmination.
The evening's final set, with Swell joining the group, took on its own character, and though the trombonist was very much an ensemble player, his impact was palpable. The joint set didn't quite reach the volume or density of the previous one, rather, the group stayed in a more melodic mode and broke out some tiny instruments - recorders and wood flutes - towards the end.
To me, the show was a visual event as much as an aural experience. The improvisation goes beyond what notes and rhythms they play, and to what to will they make them with. PEK and Norton are constantly changing instruments, and both percussive and vocal 'events' seem to bubble up throughout. Anticipating and watching what comes next is an event itself from which you can hardly avert your gaze.
This was a show that was as perplexing and challenging as I hoped it would be. I must admit I found the vocalizations, which seem to spontaneously occur and signal a shift in the groups energy, to be a bit hair-raising, but that goes part and parcel with the memorable sights of PEK playing exotic horns or blowing into three slide whistles simultaneous; or Zbitnov playing cymbals strung up on rope.
If you're looking for sonic adventure, if you're looking for something you didn't know you needed, and if you think you're ready, then yeah, take the leap of faith. This genuinely nice group of musicians transform into something completely otherworldly as they start digging into the dozens of instruments that festoon the stage.
Audio CD Evil Clown 9075
Steve Swell / Leap of Faith - Factorizations
streaming, downloads and CD mail order
Steve Swell Solo
1) Hope is the Thing with Feathers that Perches in the Soul... - 19:07
2) ... and Sings the Tunes without the Words - and Never Stops at All - 6:09
Leap of Faith
3) Rational Roots - 32:34
Steve Swell / Leap of Faith - Factorizations
New Revolution Arts, Brooklyn, NY
15 August 2015
On Leap of Faith: "Alien yet familiar, bizarre yet completely fascinating. Expanding, contracting, erupting, settling down, always as one force..." - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
On Metal Chaos Ensemble: "... using unique strategies to yield densely active and eerily surreal music, an incredible excursion through experimental improvisation." - Squidco website staff