After and Before – Al Swainger’s Pointless Beauty (2018)

Al Swainger – bass, keys, vocals, drum programming

Neil Yates – trumpet and flugelhorn

Mike Outram – Guitar

George Cooper – Keys

Mark Whitlam – Drums

An album funded by fans and supporters, this hit my doormat recently and it is a work of quality musicianship and production.

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Al Swainger is a highly sought after bass player based in the South-West of the UK and composed all the music you hear. He has assembled a crew of talented jazz stars who journey through his sound environments and deliver a feast of new sounds that leave you wanting more.

Opening track Too Late features some amazing production reminiscent of both The Who and John McLaughlin with sampled vocals that give a nod to Nana Vasconcelos. The chorus fretless sound of Al plays a sinuous melody over an infectious groove from Whitlam.

Sophos Estranhos opens with a shimmering Rhodes solo before Neil Yates’ ghostly trumpet dances with the rhythm section on a beautiful and slippery latin tune.

Spring Cleaning has Chick Corea to thank for it’s engaging latin flavour inspiration. Unison figures, late period Freddie Hubbard style from Yates, Stanley Clarke bass are all in the mix for a tune that must be even better live.

The Rockpool is atmospheric in its simplicity and is charming.

Time Considered features Yates again on flugel and Cooper on piano and is elegant.

Cyrano gently eases back into a world of sounds that again feature guitarist Mike Outram performing a poignant melody. A Zawinul-esque keys solo shows off the wonderful rhythm section interaction and communication, never overplayed. The energy transformation and development during the solos here draw you in and you could lose yourself. A fine bass solo leads into an outro once ethereal and then burning and worthy of Weather Report.

The final track opens with a Gymnopdie exploration for Outram and then leads to a meditative trio piece that once again showcases how accomplished these friends are in their interaction and listening.

For a bass player led album, this isn’t taken up with inordinate amounts of bass grandstanding but is a mature and musical collection of compositions and improvisation opportunities that he generously provides for his sidemen.

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