Ursel Schlicht

Poets of the Now

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After her stunning recording for Cadence Jazz Records entitled Sound Quest, with a different group that also included Steve Swell, it is not surprising that this earthy sequel with Tom Abbs on tuba and bass and Geoff Mann on drums and cornet might be somewhat of a letdown. Not that there is anything seriously diminished in the scope of the recording: There is not. It is simply that Sound Quest was such a remarkable album for someone so unknown that it was by its nature a difficult act to follow. There are some special performances here, nonetheless, mostly by Steve Swell, one of the finest swashbucklers of the slide trombone, and his extended feature on "Bluesy" simply shows what a powerful and forceful player he can be. Co-leader Schlicht is a subtler improviser, at least in terms of volume. Her fingers might fly across the keyboard on the opening "Poets of the New," but even with an extended growing tremolo she does not approach Swell's level of intensity, his split tones, and his overblown eruptions. Tom Abbs, who is best known for his work on tuba, adds immeasurably to the sound through his bass, where he shows a rare level of virtuosity. Swell and Schlicht are a good team as co-leaders: They parallel but do not copy one another, and the results here reveal some worthy and exciting moments.

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