Steve Swallow: Always Pack Your Uniform On Top (XtraWATT/10)

Always Pack

Steve Swallow
Always Pack Your Uniform On Top

Barry Ries trumpet
Chris Potter tenor saxophone
Mick Goodrick guitar
Steve Swallow bass
Adam Nussbaum drums
Recorded April 1999 at Ronnie Scott’s Club, London
Engineer: Miles Ashton
Mixed and mastered at Grog Kill Studio, Willow, New York
Engineer: Tom Mark
General co-ordination: Ilene Mark
Produced by Steve Swallow
Release date: June 5, 2000

For this live expedition, recorded at Ronnie Scott’s Club in London in April of 1999, Steve Swallow carries on the nascent legacy of his quintet with drummer Adam Nussbaum, guitarist Mick Goodrick, tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, and (replacing Ryan Kisor) trumpeter Barry Ries. A quiet monologue from Swallow keys open “Bend Over Backward,” an 11-and-a-half-minute suitcase of a tune. A brief nod to “Heart And Soul”—that perennial favorite among those who can’t play an instrument—reminds us we are in the presence of those who can…and then some. Potter and Nussbaum saunter onto stage like they own the place, shoes shined and hats cocked playfully askew. After Goodrick completes the picture, Ries comes in only at the end, foreshadowing his headlong dive into “Dog With A Bone,” a standout in both name and content that gives Potter plenty of leg room to dance without compromise. Energies thus spent, they deserve the downtime that casts its spell in “Misery Loves Company.” Ries is on point from start to finish, exuding a tonal quality from his trumpet closer to that of a flugelhorn. Goodrick blesses the proceedings with a graceful run of his own, skating across every patch of ice smoothed by Nussbaum’s brushes.

Any Swallow fan knows that sunset is when he comes alive, and in “Reinventing The Wheel” he gives us precisely that kind of flavor, spiked by the golden rays of Ries’s muted lines. “Feet First” then takes us on a night drive through empty streets before seeking solace in “La Nostalgie De La Boue.” And while everyone gives it their all, it’s Potter who stands out for his tightrope run between class and fortitude. Already flirting with mastery by this point, he cracks open every tune like a child hoping for that one rock that might turn out to be a geode. And that he finds, each note a facet of light reflected off the crystals within.

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