A Singularly Memorable, Moody Narrative from Jorn Swart
The thing you have to know about the central character in Jorn Swart‘s new quasi-narrative album A Day in the Life of Boriz is that Boriz goes around in circles a lot. Sometimes the guy chases his tail. And that’s iintentional. There’s a tragicomic quality to Swart’s moodily sophisticated themes on this quartet session, where the pianist teams up with tenor saxophonist Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, bassist Scott Colberg and drummer Dan Pugach. The group plays the album release show at 7 PM on Jan 12 at Spectrum.
The album opens with a stroll of sorts, Amsterdam in Grey, its circular themes passing from instrument to instrument, Swart prowling minimalistically and then taking it up to where the sax brings in a more lighthearted contrast to the moody mechanistics underneath. The following track, Fiets, works off a creepily dancing, marionettish, Monk-inflected theme and then makes its way through more than one false ending: Lefkowitz-Brown’s solo, where he defies any reference to the melody before moving slowly and almost deviously back toward the center, is one of the album’s high points.
A Day in the Life of Boriz Pt. 2 sets peevish upper-register sax over Swart’s moody prelude – if only poor Boriz could get rid of the nagging, he’d be ok! Autunn Nostalgia brings back the hint of a stroll, Swart eventually taking it up to a long, nocturnally neoromantic interlude before introducing a full-on nostalgic feel that Pugach lights up with his artfully spacious cymbal work.
After the smoky, reflective ballad The Duke, Monk and More – a mashup of familiar themes – they return to third-stream terrain for Snurdie Furdie, full of neoromantic disquiet, moving back and forth between variations on an eerie circular phrase and a wistful pastoral theme. Then Swart brings back more Monk allusions with And Never Again, Colberg’s dancing lines disguising the modal menace at the center of the tune, Pugach again building a slow crescendo that takes everybody but the band by surprise.
The strongest tune here – the hit single, if you want to call it that – is Sara, a steady, moody jazz waltz, Swart keeping it enigmatic and resisting any kind of resolution until the very end. A Day in the Life of Boriz Pt. 1 maintains the somber mood, Lefkowitz-Brown’s chromatically-charged spirals against Swart’s darkly glistening classicisms. The album ends with a darkly spacious miniature. Throughout these tunes, Swart reveals an individaulistic voice and a welcome tendency not to shy away from darkness. Although on a couple of the tracks here, the endlessly looping phrases get close to overkill point- or is that just part of the narrative, poor Boriz stuck on the treadmill?
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