Whirlpool With Ron Miles – Dancing On The Inside (2015)

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What grew out of a Paul Motian tribute turned into on ongoing dedication to the genius of that acclaimed drummer’s originative trio with Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano. Whirlpool is a highly collaborative threesome comprised of some of the brightest young members in Chicago’s jazz vanguard. You’re bound to come across the names of Caroline Davis (alto sax), Charles Rumback (drums) and Jeff Swanson (guitar) when checking out the Windy City’s current scene and the three inevitably got together for a spontaneous concert in 2012 as part of an overall Motian tribute. The immediate chemistry from this encounter kept them together since.

Another chance encounter, from a 2013 Denver stop, led to their second album. Issued last summer on ears&eyes Records, Dancing On The Inside adds a special guest, Denver-based cornetist Ron Miles, who shares the band’s penchant for blending composition and improvisation into pleasing melodies solidly held up by graceful musicianship.

Perhaps the delicacy heard from the four comes from playing in a bass-less quartet, where the glue is found in higher timbres, and everyone is forced to be better attuned to each other. It also allows each player more room to breathe.

From the opening title track, all four are playing distinctively different roles but fit together contrapuntally to form Rumback’s easily identifiable melody. “Deciduous” features darting unison lines and Swanson’s indie guitar undercurrent mildly suggestive of Mary Halvorson. Davis and Miles separate from each other and then converge again intuitively, followed by Davis cavorting over Swanson’s changes.

A descending, circular figure lies at the heart of “Remedies” while Rumback’s active cymbals keeps the song on edge. Once again, Davis and Miles converse empathetically to each other, particularly during breakdown section where there is an extensive conversation between the two. Swanson’s composition “The Ocean Knows” has some of that free flowing movement that Motian loved, and like Motian, Rumback uses his drums to expend the band’s tonal palette. Davis’ “The Crew” sports a classic style bebop head but with modern jazz type solos.

As a bit of a change-up, the short folk-jazz tune “Right Where” feature Davis delivering a quite competent vocal while Miles acts as second lead voice.

Dancing On The Inside is soothing even as it takes on the discreet challenges these musicians had set up for themselves.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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