Pianist and composer Nelda Swiggett’s latest offering, Blue-Eyed Painted Lady, is a 9-track disc of original compositions played skillfully by her “stringtet” — that is, her piano trio (Chris Symer, bass; Byron Vannoy, drums) augmented by violist Rachel Swerdlow and cellist Walter Gray, both of the Seattle Symphony (Gray was also a founding member of the Kronos Quartet). Though it is Swiggett’s fourth CD, it is the first recording for the stringtet. It’s a fine debut that showcases Swiggett’s voice as a composer and the abilities of the ensemble members in relative equal fashion. This is a welcome balance here, as Swiggett’s compositional voice is one of the album’s strong points.
On “Thanks to Solomon,” Swiggett’s twisting and turning of a half-step theme through various rhythmic and harmonic treatments suggests a minimalist approach. But the contrasting section is a pleasant, forget-your-worries country-blues vamp that supports a soulful piano solo. A simple bossa nova groove provides the foundation for Swiggett’s vocal line and a series of solos on the title track, whose lyrics are an ode to the pianist’s mother — an artist whose lovely painting also graces the album cover. “A Tune With a View,” with its syncopated framework and vocalized melodies, closes the album about as perfectly as possible.