Damaged in Transit, recorded live in France in 2001, is a decided move away from Steve Swallow's obsession with harmony. His earlier bands, particularly over the three recordings or so following Deconstructed, were built with two-horn front lines and usually a guitar as a harmonic anchor to provide a large chromatic palette and harmonic base for soloists. Here, working with tenor man Chris Potter and drummer Adam Nussbaum, Swallow uses the gig forum to explore that preternatural jazz monster: counterpoint. A series of nine numbered items are edited together to sound more or less like one piece; these different selections offer varying sides of the contrapuntal equation. There is the bluesy swing in "Item 2," where Potter's soloing brings the rhythm section toward him against the beat in his legato phrasing. There's the slippery but beautiful swing in "Item 3," where the intertwining of all three players creates a soft, lyrical beauty that is almost songlike. In "Item 5" Potter quotes Thelonious Monk and the piece takes on a neo-bop angle that allows Nussbaum and Potter to go head to head, stretching rhythmic and melodic notions to the breaking point before Swallow enters and, in his warm, velvety tone, takes charge, turning the exercise into something else altogether by introducing a scalar notion that moves in direct opposition to Potter's phraseology. And lest anyone think this is just loose jamming in order to get a record out, check out the CD booklet -- each piece is scored in order to provide the maximum opportunity within the melodic structure of a tune for ideas to flow freely as the trio members engage one another. A fine effort.
Damaged in Transit Review
by Thom Jurek