No one familiar with the past work of bassist Marc Johnson and pianist Eliane Elias will be surprised to find that this album finds them working in an exploratory mode; Johnson has long been one of the most interesting bassists on the modern jazz scene, and Elias' résumé is all over the place. But the sweetness, the quiet, and the sometimes deeply haunting melancholy of Swept Away may catch listeners unawares. Elias and Johnson are joined here by the two musicians who are more perfectly suited to this type of project than any others on the scene today: saxophonist Joe Lovano (currently the go-to player for virtually every serious jazz session in New York) and the preternaturally sensitive drummer Joey Baron, a man who has made more session leaders sound wonderful over the past 20 years than any other. Baron and Johnson face a serious challenge on this program: the tempos are generally slow, the sense of swing sometimes nearly subliminal, and that puts bassists and drummers in an awkward position. But on tracks like "It's Time" and the lovely "B Is for Butterfly," they keep the thread steady and reliable without dictating a beat or drawing undue attention; when the time comes to lay down a solid groove (as on the wonderful "B Is for Butterfly"), they do so elegantly and seemingly without effort. Swept Away is the best example of what has come to be called "ECM jazz" -- quiet, spacious, and friendly, but complex as well and easily able to stand up to close listening.
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Review by Rick Anderson