All Music Guide

All Music Guide 2010

By Adam Greenberg

For her first trio recording, pianist Nelda Swiggett goes all out, using her own compositions as a base for cerebral explorations on the keys. Over an extraordinarily steady backing from Chris Symer’s bass (and to a slightly less audible degree Byron Vannoy’s drums), Swiggett alternately develops sparse themes into stocky grooves and tinkles little blues hybrids into Bill Evans-style balladry (as in the excellent “Heart of the Moment”). On pieces like “No Tattoo,” she moves into more fanciful territory, drawing comparisons with the likes of McCoy Tyner in her approach. The constant bass accompaniment adds to the comparison. The compositions are relatively complex throughout, making full use of the range and pulling a variety of sounds from the piano, especially in combination with the rhythm section. Swiggett’s playing throughout is a surprise — generally starting out calmly and melodically, but unveiling deeper layers of excitement and intrigue as the songs develop. There’s a lot to listen to here, and almost all of it is excellent.

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