All About Jazz
By C. Michael Bailey, April 3, 2010
Comparisons with Thelonius Monk and McCoy Tyner notwithstanding, Seattle-native Nelda Swiggett summons the influence of a piano talent closer to home, that of the late Gene Harris. Both pianists’ styles are characterized by a bright palette, a sinewy execution and a powerful, assertive command. Swiggett’s atonal tendencies echo Monk and her percussive nature, Tyner. Taken as a whole, the sound is all Swiggett’s: refined and confident, open and inviting.
This Time is Swiggett’s first recording for the OA2 label, and third release overall. No Time for Daydreams (1993), with the Room to Move Sextet, and Hands On (1999) were released on her own Moving Room imprint. This Time features 11 original Swiggett compositions that all reveal a keen ear for memorable and unique jazz composition. Swiggett favors rhythmic archetypes such as the punctuated “Jack and Key Boo Ba,” the closely chaotic “Mere Madness,” and the Latinesque “Beyond That.”
Swiggett is very much a double fisted pianist, like Harris, who is able to coax much from her piano. The orchestral expanse of her playing would enable Swiggett to easily produce a full-bodied solo recital. Bassist Chris Symer shares a close empathy with the pianist, fully able to duplicate and sustain her craggy rhythms. His arco playing on “The Time Being” is beautifully appropriate. Drummer Byron Vannoy is the anchor that keeps this trio grounded, his playing never too loud or overbearing. Swiggett’s singing is also very fine, though closely guarded as she sings on only three of the disc’s compositions. This Time is a strong and elegant jazz showing.