AMN Reviews: Brandon Seabrook Trio – In The Swarm (2022; Astral Spirits)

This grouping of Brandon Seabrook on guitar and banjo, Gerald Cleaver on drums and electronics, and Cooper-Moore on diddley bow (a bass instrument with a bouncy character) returns for a second showing. One might assume that these three would combine to produce New-Yorkish creative jazz, but instead the instrumentation and arrangements head in a more psychedelic direction with underlying tones of bluegrass.

Of course, Seabrook provides his signature speed picking on both banjo and guitar, with lighting fast runs accompanied by jagged chording. But his vocabulary is much broader, producing involved patterns that interlock with those of Cleaver and Cooper-Moore, and doing so in a thoughtful fashion. Cleaver actively drives the pulse of the album, adjusting his structures and phrasing throughout, rarely settling on anything resembling a steady rhythm for long. Cooper-Moore emits loose and ropey cadences that are heady, echoing with a dark, retro feel.

The group is not afraid to mix metaphors. Vibrancy Yourself features the rhythm section laying down shifting groove-like vamps. But just when you think that they might be veering toward some suggestion of conventional forms, Seabrook cuts in with unruly, outside lines played in a charmingly raw manner. If anything, the album gets even weirder on the following tracks, with plenty of sound sculpting and extended techniques.

In the Swarm fails to fall squarely into the avant-jazz bucket (even when viewed as a broadly-defined and inclusive category). The explorations on this album are markedly innovative, standing out and bypassing genre. Very well done.

In the Swarm hits the shelves (and the download servers) on May 20.

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