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AL SWAINGER'S POINTLESS BEAUTY
Hearts Full of Grace
(2022 - Other Compass Records - UK)
BUY THIS GEM:(Bandcamp)
I have known Al Swainger for several years and witnessed his abilities to compose not only equally supreme for an entire orchestra of parts, but close ensemble, and all that comes dear to what his intentions on each composition are. Not only does this release continue the skills and deep study of his capable ways, but surpasses the boundaries his previous music captured. In this rebound of sorts, when the world is fooled into a semi- secured return to normal, artists like Al Swainger bring not only his various bass talents to front and center, but easily attracts additional backing from each member. Artists include Al Swainger - Bass (1-10) Synths (1,2,4,6)/ Jon Clark - Drums (1-6,8,9,10)/ George Cooper - Piano (1-5,9,10), Rhodes (2,4,6), Synths (3,9,10)/ Ant Law - Electric Guitar (3-6, 9-10) / Acoustic Guitar (2, 10)/ Gary Alesbrook - Flugel (1,2,3,5,10) / Trumpet (4,6,8,9). The lineup speaks for itself. All compositions, arrangements, production, original photography, artwork and sleeve design by Al Swainger. All involved grab the elements of both spontaneous and charted compositions.
Perhaps the smoothest and relaxing mixed with fiery jazz Al has ever made. A partly Pat Metheny, surrendering to Enrico Rava, a touch of Mark Isham, with dueling Moog/keyboardist, and fluid guitarist (soaring leads), with nods back to classic jazz rock of some European greats of the 1970's. 'Hearts Full of Grace; (Al's 5th full length, by the way) is a mesh of easy but often complex injection of fusion and thought provoking ambience all in a construct of particulars. Also some tropical flavors aka Rob Mounsey's "Flying Monkey Orchestra" and remember, Swainger is extremely smart with many instruments, being a multi-instrumentalist himself. Great in touch (finger on the pulse) parts from all instruments rain like tears in this gorgeous physical format release. With a merry-go-round of styles, hazy meadow of pastel flowers, and mellow ambient soothers, quick shifting syncopated spins, each corner shows Mr Swainger tackling the measures in supreme method. .
A 6 panel digipak physical CD that will throw a breath of fresh air into your ears and lungs. This is a result of what Swainger labels as a "state of mind" album, which is during the Covid shut downs and stripping down of the not only most people (unless you were filthy rich and one of the big players who pounced into wolf position to take advantage of the working class, once again), but especially the artists (of all sorts) who were making a living , or partly so, of their craft.
The display of musicianship is heartfelt, and thus the title. A chain link of events took place with this recording-including a disaster with his hard drive going bad, and I spoke to him about it. His words "Quite a big thing was that I had a major hard drive crash in 2020 and lost about a year and a half's work because I didn't have a backup. Some pieces had been finished and released but I lost the multi tracks. One that only made it to demo stage was Stir Crazy. I had to transcribe and reassemble it to use for the final recording. There's lots of synth parts that I'd put through effects and eq processes that I had to figure out how to do again from scratch. That stuff forms the skeleton that we improvised around in the studio. I still mourn other work that's gone forever from that hard drive crash." Regardless of what we will never hear, this album has Swainger's steady, creative, and thoughtful compositions arrangements. Al Swainger has always been elite in his color palette and this recording is no exception. No doubt about it, this a beautifully executed gem. RECOMMENDED!
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 8 - 5 - 2022
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