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Disc review: Swallow, Talmor, Nussbaum, ‘Singular Curves’

Listen to this pianoless trio disc’s opener called “It Did.”

And then consider this – that the composer and lead tenor saxophone performer of the tune is also a classical composer and conductor who is almost as likely to conduct Stravinsky and compose pieces for pianist Martha Argerich as he is to play in a trio with just bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Adam Nussbaum. His name is Ohad Talmor and in addition he recently wrote the music to the film “Low Down,” which is based on the book by the daughter of bebop pianist Joe Albany and tells the story of a kid growing up with a junkie parent.

When Sonny Rollins made a first major jazz impression with this format 60 years ago, the absence of a piano or a guitar’s chordal richness made some listeners nervous. And yet line, counterpoint and rhythm have been essential stripped down inter-actors in jazz since the first jazz in New Orleans. Bassist Steve Swallow is one of the great players in jazz. Drummer Adam Nussbaum is a first-class performer.

It is tenor saxophonist Talmor, obviously, who is star of the record. He was born in France of Israeli parents, grew up in Switzerland, took lessons from Martha Argerich, began to play jazz, apprenticed himself to Lee Konitz, and wound up being the music director for ensembles led by Konitz and Swallow. He’s a mainstay of the jazz scene in Brooklyn now.

The only failures on the disc are not matters of line, counterpoint and rhythm but matters of color. The way Talmor plays tenor, his playing sometimes isn’t the right color for some of these compositions. Their melodies need, sometimes, to be announced by strings or a brass choir (with, yes, ripe chords and harmonies) and then lead into solo lines over Swallow’s electric bass counterpoint.

The disc, frankly, isn’t consistently gripping. Still, a classical/jazz figure of this ease has been implicit in jazz since Jimmy Giuffre. Talmor’s second trio with these musicians is the ideal way for him to present his rarity.


Swallow, Talmor, Nussbaum

“Singular Curves” (Auand)

3 stars

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