Distinguished jazz and improvisation artists, pianist Dave Burrell and trombonist Steve Swell have crafted one of the most exciting and unique duo presentations I've heard in quite some time. The album moniker Turning Point is the third in a series of five suites honoring the individuals and events of the American Civil War. Here, Burrell ruminates upon Civil War era Americana, integrated with a progressive jazz flair amid lofty improvisational sequences and humbly stated melodic choruses via the artists' respective sensibilities of this landmark event in American history.
Recorded at the Library of the Free Library of Philadelphia, the duo mingles playful dialogues with bold exchanges, including Swell's gutsy and soul-drenched jazz lines, tinted with tremolo and blistering solo spots. Nonetheless, the musicians generate and reconstruct Civil War era stylizations, often heard by way of strings quartets or solo banjo and piano performances. Hence, Burrell's delicately executed melodies and rhythmically sculpted block chords capture this period in music, where sorrow and reflectiveness seemed to be the basis for simple, yet heartwarming harmonic motifs. However, pieces such as "Church Picnic Celebration" and "Paradox of Freedom" are fashioned with bluesy and drawling riffs and full throttle improv segments, contrasted by abstract variations and rollicking breakouts. It's so interesting to hear the jazz vernacular retuned in such a way.
On "Fancy Trade Nightmare," Swell's raspy and down home lines ignite a sense of angst as Burrell quietly comps in the background; whereas, the final track "Battle at Vicksburg"—the final campaign of the Civil War —sounds like a eulogy, where closure is attained with Burrell's solemn voicings and moderate metrical flows. Otherwise, I'll go out on very a short limb, advising that Turning Point is a must listen for most if not all jazz aficionados. (AAJ)