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Longtime pals and musical colleagues John Scofield and Steve Swallow recorded their latest project in a single afternoon last year, after preparing for four decades, as the guitarist quipped. Indeed, a certain lightness, vitality and synchronicity characterize the sound and vibe of the pair’s collaboration with drummer Bill Stewart on a journey through nine tunes from bassist Swallow’s extensive songbook.“Falling Grace” is one of several pieces here that Swallow introduced while playing in Gary Burton’s 1960s groups. Like other Swallow compositions, it’s built on a circular structure that feels like a loop. A few bars of an unhurried drum intro and a dash through the melody precede Sco’s typically winding but surprising improvisation. He then passes the torch to the composer for a series of creative phrases, cleverly interconnected.
“Eiderdown,” Swallow’s first composition, also hails from his time with Burton. The catchy, bluesy-to-bop melody provides plenty of room for sprawling, twisty solos, including an extended turn from Stewart and then Scofield’s buzzy, bending, dissonance-spiked outro, which concludes with a gritty, air-hanging chord.There are other musical flavors, as well, including the gorgeous, slow-moving ballad “Away,” and a pair of sly waltzes — “She Was Young” (originally set to a Robert Creeley poem), replete with a blistering coda, and “Hullo Bolinas.” “Awful Coffee,” initially conceived of as an up-tempo piece, is remade as a laid-back charmer, and features one of Swallow’s prettiest, most melodic solos. These well-told tales close with the zig-zagging burner “Radio,” bolstered by the guitarist skating across chord changes nearly as speedy as those in “Giant Steps.” — Philip Booth