The two words “Swallow” and “Nussbaum” used in close proximity to each other instantly conjures up John Scofield’s best pre-Still Warm disc, Shinola. Scofield’s compositions and arrangements on that live set demanded much from his rhythm section, and his rhythm section delivered in spades. The rhythm section from this 1981 encounter was Steve Swallow on electric bass and Adam Nussbaum on drums, and this dynamic duo have regrouped over the years with different frontmen, notably the “We3″ trio with saxophonist Dave Liebman that made a record back in ’11.
The Swallow/Nussbaum unit has also performed with another saxophonist, Ohad Talmor, for a number years and their first document, Playing In Traffic came forth about the same time as the We3 release. The Talmor combo will now release a second album Singular Curves on August 5, 2014 from Auand Records.
The Israeli-born Talmor, who participated in Dan Weiss’ tremendous album Fourteen from earlier this year, has collaborated a great deal with Lee Konitz and leads his own group Newsreel. He’s already cut a record with Swallow without Nussbaum, a set of Swallow compositions arranged Stravinsky style titled L’Histoire du Clochard: The Bum’s Tale, so there’s all sorts of familiarity spread across these three.
Talmor is more of a straight-ahead guy than Scofield and thus Singular Curves is modern/post-bop jazz, not fusion. But the firmness, agility and intuition of the old Scofield trio are there to provide the same solid foundation for the Talmor unit. Swallow forms the perfectly balanced bridge between Nussbaum’s lopsided beat and Talmor’s between-the-beats note patterns on “It Did,” and from the slightest cue, the rhythm section takes off on a rapid bass walk.
A relaxed feeling permeates Carla Bley’s “Ups and Downs” and its easygoing swing, a setting in which Talmor thrives. Swallow’s highly original bass establishes the melody for his reworking of Burke & Davis’ “Carolina Moon” in his typical, velvety manner, then eases back with Nussbaum as Talmor unhurriedly exploits the groove. Another bass walk strut fashions the shape of “Get Lost” and it’s not long before Talmor steps away to fully reveal the telepathy going on between those bass and drums.
Most of the rest of the album continues along this relaxed vibe, and everyone is of one mind and swinging like champs. That style is maintained even though everyone had shared in the songwriting duties for most of the fare. And then they close out the album with a dusty standard “You Go To My Head,” played so gracefully and floating above the clouds like time suspended. A sensitively conveyed ballad forming the perfect ending.
A perfect rhythm section, too. Fronted by a saxophonist who sounds as if he has been playing along with them since, oh, 1981 or so. Singular Curves is not the work of a trio looking to change jazz, but render its classic style with assured expertise. Arguably, they do it and more importantly, they don’t overdo it.