MORE THAN IMAGINABLE
Released on Ninjazz Records in 2012, saxophonist Ricky Sweum joins forces with the world-renowned talents of drummer Clarence Penn, pianist Edward Simon, and bassist Dave Robaire. This fiery and exciting session captures 10 uniquely varied Sweum originals. The disc showcases his penchant for modern-grooving- free-blowing vamps coupled with beautiful melodic playing reminiscent of classic ECM recordings of the 1970’s.
Ricky Sweum (tenor & soprano saxes)
Clarence Penn (drums)
Dave Robaire (bass)
Edward Simon (piano)
- Earth Squid
- Barry’s Barnacle Blues
- Sleeping Man
- More Than Imaginable
- Canyon Dance
- Things You Think You Have To Do
- Chekhovian Circus Song
- Kerabag’s Trance
All compositions by Ricky Sweum. Molecular Expansion Music (BMI). Produced by Ricky Sweum. Recorded June 8th, 2011 at Acoustic Recording (Brooklyn, NY). Recording Engineer: Michael Brorby. Mixed and Mastered by Michael Perez-Cisneros (Brooklyn, NY). CD Design by Donald Wallace/Wallace Creative Inc. Photographs by Kofi Okai. Released on Ninjazz Records in 2012.
- Remained on the JazzWeek chart for 15 weeks
- Rose to #97 on the JazzWeek chart (Feb 29, 2012)
- Distributed in Japan by Disk Union
- Select tracks were licensed as an accompanying CD to the Italian book “appunti da New York” (2012)
- Rose to #1 on the Roots Music Report (Alaska)
Click images for purchasing information.
Clarence Penn, Dave Robaire, Ricky Sweum, Edward Simon (Brooklyn, NY, June 8, 2011)
Ricky Sweum Nails It!
By Brent Black for CriticalJazz (June 8, 2013)
Ricky Sweum is one of thousands of musicians working the scene today that is working more than one job. Sweum’s work as a recording artist may in fact be considered secondary to his primary position as working for the Air Force Band of the Pacific stationed in Anchorage, Alaska where he tours the United States, Japan and Australia. It’s not just a job it’s an adventure. O.k. wrong branch of the service but you feel me.
Sweum is a name to remember, an up and comer having been featured in the Random House book, “The New Face of Jazz: An Intimate Look at Today’s Living Legends and the Artists of Tomorrow” (2010). As a military musician, Sweum has performed before millions throughout the United States and at such notable venues as Carnegie Hall, Monterey Jazz Festival and the Macy’s Day Parade to name but a few.
More Than Imaginable is the latest release from Sweum, a blistering session capturing 10 varied Sweum originals proving his more than ample talents as one of a half dozen true jazz triple threats. Performer, composer and producer has Sweum quickly moving to the top of the straight ahead line of all star performers. “Earth Squid” is a blistering vamp showcasing Sweum’s ability to more than hold his own on any bandstand today. The dialed back swing of “Barry’s Barnacle Blues” has Sweum performing double duty on soprano saxophone while a first call rhythm section anchored by the controlled sonic fury of drummer Clarence Penn owns the pocket. Bassist Dave Robaire and pianist Edward Simon round out this stellar rhythm section that can lay down a groove as tight as any rhythm section working today. Sweum’s soprano work is lyrically straight ahead – Coltrane-eque if form and functionality. Perhaps the most captivating aspect of this formidable 4tet is that even Sweum’s sound gracefully sidesteps strict categorization. Straight ahead, post bop or hard bop or perhaps a more individualistic style that brings the listener close to the avant-gard cliff without ever coming close to pushing them or the band over the sonic edge. “Belonging” is a beautiful more ballad oriented tune that seems somehow magically lost in sonic space. Pianist Edward Simon moves the lyrical direction while keeping harmonically grounded but dynamically diverse.
More Than Imaginable is indeed a magnificent work lost in space. Modern post bop with a retro-groove of a time gone by, Ricky Sweum is charting his own musical course and that is one of the road less traveled.
More Than Imaginable, AllAboutJazz
By Edward Blanco for AllAboutJazz.com (April 13, 2012)
4 1/2 Stars
West coast saxophonist Ricky Sweum grew up in Eugene, Oregon, and spent many years as a freelance musician in New York before embarking on a military career, joining the Air Force Academy Band in 2003. After a stint with prestigious jazz big band The Falconaires as lead tenor, in 2011 he moved on and now works with the Air Force Band of the Pacific in Anchorage, Alaska where he tours the U.S., Japan and Australia. Still, Sweum manages a professional career separate from his military commitments, where an extensive résumé finds him as a sideman as well as dabbling with some independent material dating back to 1994. On More Than Imaginable, Sweum reveals more of his own work, on his own label and with a first-rate lineup—altogether resulting in a surprisingly top-notch recording.
More Than Imaginable represents Sweum’s second major release as leader since his 2009 Origin Records debut, Pulling Your Own Strings. Piloting a quartet featuring Venezuelan-born piano wonder Edward Simon, drumming sensation Clarence Penn and Southern California bassist Dave Robaire, Sweum takes to the air with ten sophisticated and varied originals, continuing his exploration of modern jazz in creative fashion. The innovative new sounds start in electrifying style with the hard-driving “Earth Squid,” a high-flying energetic piece capturing strong performances from both the saxophonist and drummer Penn. Simon and Robaire take their turn on the intricate “Barry’s Barnacle Blues,” which features Sweum on soprano.
Though there are plenty of solid solos and other highlights on this fine disc, the title track and subsequent “Canyon Dance” provide special moments, delivering the best solo spots from both Simon and Sweum. “Belonging” and “Kiva” are similar in texture—both clearly gems of modern music, though the latter has a more percussive feel. Sweum’s tender tenor leads the music on a brief but beautiful “Things You Think You Have To Do,” a deliciously light ballad featuring brushes, a soft touch from Simon and Robaire’s delicate bass lines.
While Sweum’s dazzling statements on both tenor and soprano saxophones remain a key feature, it is his skill as a composer that may leave the most lasting impression. This ten-piece repertoire of originals concludes with his most ambitious composition, engaging the band on “Kerabag’s Trance,” its mesmerizing sound enduring long after an almost ten-minute duration. Serving as a natural vehicle of modern jazz, More Than Imaginable captures Sweum’s penchant for modern grooves and melodic playing in a highly accessible album that’s far better than can be imagined.
Exploring the world of contemporary jazz saxophone.
Saturday, June 30, 2012
Review: More Than Imaginable – Ricky Sweum
I got wind of a saxophone player I’d never heard of before named Ricky Sweum from listening to an interview with him on the “Best Saxophone Website Ever.” I then checked out Sweum’s website, listened to some samples I liked, and decided to check out his latest recording, “More Than Imaginable” (Ninjazz Records).
Sweum was a freelance musician in NYC; since 2003, he’s been in various Air Force jazz ensembles. I suspect that the Air Force demands impeccable musicianship from any members of its bands, and, based on “More Than Imaginable,” Sweum fits this bill. His sound is clear and strong and his technique is excellent, on both tenor and soprano. Also, he’s one of those saxophonists (like Walt Weiskopf) who considers his composing as important as his playing and is equally competent at both. All ten tracks on “More Than Imaginable” were composed by Sweum.
The first track, “Earth Squid,” is a lively, up tempo tune, and Sweum’s playing is driving and fluid. Pianist Ed Simon exhibits similar qualities in his solo, perhaps employing even more drama and progression than Sweum. “Barry’s Barnacle Blues” is a clever, well-disguised blues. Here, Simon solos first, sailing through the tune’s tricky changes. Sweum follows on soprano with a solid, graceful solo. “Sleeping Man” is an intense, up tempo, modal tune that has Sweum on tenor at his most Brecker-like, bending notes and screaming in the upper register (though without as much false fingering as Brecker would use). Drummer Clarence Penn adds fills over a vamp before having the stage all to himself for a nice solo. The title track is a slow, pretty ballad whose melody gets stuck in your head. Both Simon and Sweum (again on tenor) play through slow and then double-time sections in their fine solos. “Canyon Dance,” with Sweum back on soprano, is an upper mid-tempo, straight ahead tune, with Sweum flying through the changes and Simon displaying great chops while maintaining his expressiveness. Bassist Dave Robaire solos before the tune ends with some nice improvised interplay between all the players.
“Belonging” (not the Keith Jarrett tune) is a pretty composition played at mid-tempo, with Simon sounding Corea-esque and Sweum back on tenor. “Kiva” is also a mid-tempo tune, giving the opportunity for Sweum (on tenor) and Simon to really dig into the tune with probing solos. “Things You Think You Have to Do” is a languid ballad. The solos from Simon, Sweum, and Robaire are fine and seem too brief. “Chekhovian Circus Song” is an angular tune, both melodically and harmonically, with Sweum on soprano. The album closes with “Kerabag’s Trance.” This tune begins like a slow tango, with Sweum playing tenor, employing some screaming in the upper register like Jan Garbarek. After Simon solos, Sweum continues in Garbarek mode, using dramatic note-bending, short bursts of melody, and more upper range screaming. This is some of Sweum’s most interesting playing. He should also get credit for not ending his album with a show stopper tune but rather something that leaves the listener wanting more.
“More Than Imaginable” is a work that has a lot of variety in its tunes, and Sweum’s playing is solid throughout. The supporting work from Simon, Penn, and Robaire is very good, with Simon soloing at least as well as Sweum. I find a bit too much uniformity in Sweum’s playing and a lack of risk-taking and suspense-building, but this is a minor criticism. Based on “More Than Imaginable,” Ricky Sweum deserves to have his future work watched closely, as he clearly has the potential to be a great player.
Note: I downloaded this CD from the Ninjazz Records website, along with (at no extra charge) the CD photos, 51 additional session photos, and the PDF’s of the sheet music for the CD’s tunes. This was a very nice deal.