Home — Music by Steve Swallow to poems by Robert Creeley

Produced by Manfred Eicher; engineered by David Baker; recorded at Columbia Recording Studios, New York.

In his most recent ECM release, bassist Steve Swallow walks a somewhat perilous artistic tightrope. Home is Swallow’s music, wrapped loosely around the sparse and image-filled poems of Robert Creeley, and played by musicians well suited to the undertaking.

On the opening “Some Echoes,” saxman David Liebman lyrically floats above the methodical piano of Steve Kuhn and the equally spacious and undistinguishable synthesizer of Lyle Mays — with a resulting Eno-ish ambiance. A restrained Kuhn never quite catches up to the heat while soloing on “She was Young,” a section trom Creeley’s “The Finger.” Swallow is also heard from at the beginning of the tune. His melodic and mobile bass line on “Colors” lays a soft cushion for more of Liebman’s fine sax playing. After a brief vocal refrain from Sheila Jordan, Kuhn launches into a jovial piano solo, and drummer Rob Moses goes into orbit. Moses jabs between cymbals and snare, darts among tom-toms, and kicks the bass drum sparingly but effectively. Moses follows few rules at times like these. His soloing over the Tyner-esque chords of “In The Fall” is a rhythmic dance with a theme all its own.

Subliminal synthesist Lyle Mays fades in again at “Ice Cream,” as Swallow bounces all over his fretless bass. Jordan enters with one of her better moments on the record, singing strong and sure. “Sure, Herbert — Take a bite — The crowd milling on the bridge, the night forms in the air. So much has gone away.” At times on Home, Jordan seems unsure just how much seriousness to give the poems, understandable given the rather vague wistfullness of Creeley. His poems certainly leave the musicians a lot of room for interpretation, as each one is no longer than two or three sentences.

Swallow has assembled an exceptional band, especially for a project like this one. Kuhn, Liebman, and Moses provide fine moments, and Jordan is just “outside” enough anyway to pull off her end. The band dances through a lot of this record, and they’re never all doing quite the same step, proviing to be nearly as oblique as Creeley. Much of Home works, musically and artistically, and one doesn’t have to be an English major to enjoy it.

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