The most important things about any group that has been/recorded together for long period of time is consistency and chemistry. In the case of Doug Webb, this consistency and chemistry came of the course of one long day which has given birth to three recordings including his latest, Swing Shift. These recordings represent a number of snapshots over those hours with various piano players. But the one constant is Webb’s amazing direction and the groups ability to hold strong and sound blisteringly beauty on every piece.
Opening this set with brilliance, Webb features Larry Goldings on piano performing on the Mal Waldron classic, “Soul Eyes.” It’s a nice and uptempo version with a lot of a muscle and vitality. Webb’s sound is bold and jumps out and takes hold. The connection the trio of Gibbs, Webb and Clarke have with each pianist throughout these sessions is amazing. Goldings playing, particularly towards the middle of the piece is like an elegant tap dancer.
While the opening minutes of the 22 minute epic, “Patagonia Suite” (written by Webb and Clarke)can be compared to Coltrane as far as performance, the material expands from that theme to Webb’s own vision very quickly. The opening movement flies at a frenzy. Batasooriya delivers a resounding performance as he challenges the trio and they respond with crisp versatility. The second movement sees each member moving through improvised solos with Gibbs expressing himself through crazy timing that makes the piece more adventurous than it already is.
Webb offers a sense of spirituality as the “Patagonia Suite” moves into its middle section, which does feel like late period Coltrane but its extremely effective. The interaction between Clarke and Webb is fantastic. This is probably the most exciting I’ve heard Clarke in years. “Patagonia Suite” later resettles into a kind of hard bop mode as it travels towards its conclusion; including quiet but rich solos from Clarke and Batasooriya.
“Apodemia,” another piece written by Webb and Clarke is a bright conclusion to the session. Joe Bagg sits in on piano. The band plays off Webb’s vibrant yet cool performance. This has a nice live feeling to it. I’m really impressed with Webb’s performances and writing throughoutSwing Shift. “Apodemia,” while based in the hard bop mold has a solid sense of modernism delivered by the musicians. Clarke adds a little bit of the funky groove for which he is known. Webb allows the band to really stretch on this piece. It’s a relaxed, diverse and romantic all at once.
Webb’s wild all-day session from four years ago still bears some excitingly fresh fruit. Let’s hope there’s more in the vault to come. Doug Webb has produced a superb bit of work withSwing Shift. If you’ve never listened to him before, this is definitely a disc worth seeking out.