Swimming in Bengal | Collective Elephant

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Avant Garde: Free Improvisation Jazz: Avant-Garde Jazz Moods: Type: Improvisational
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Collective Elephant

by Swimming in Bengal

This Sacramento, CA – based improv. band consisting of Jed Brewer (guitar), Tony Passarell (sax, horns, bass, ) and Rusi Gustafson (percussion). The band takes some cues from South & Central Asia, but operates in a lawless no man's land of droney psych.
Genre: Avant Garde: Free Improvisation
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Jungle Ragu
6:06 $0.99
2. Night Market
8:22 $0.99
3. Icons of Myth
4:48 $0.99
4. Ship Is Home
3:03 $0.99
5. Smoldering Embers of Middle Age
17:04 $0.99
6. Liquid Feedback
6:44 $0.99
7. Rehydrate
7:18 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Collective Elephant was recorded/mixed by Greg Hain at Gold Lion Arts Feb 2019 in Sacramento, CA. The music is improvised without any overdubs.

Tony Passarell - conductor, saxophone, hand drums, percussion
Jed Brewer - gourd guitar
Rusi Gustafson - hand drums, percussion, singing banjo
Amy Reed - voice, percussion
Keith Cary - cello, effects
Heath Poskin - acoustic bass
Linda Michelle Hardy - Native American flutes, whistles, hulusi, percussion
Alan Ernst - harmonium, flute

Review of "Garden of Idle Hands" by Bill Meyer at Dusted Magazine:
Not all places in the union are created equal. There are some that contain not one Middle Eastern-minded, improvising trio; hell, I’ll bet there are states between the Western Massachusetts and the Sierra Nevadas with fewer than a dozen customers per senator who mail order Sun City Girls reissues. But the West Coast keeps the torch lit. Not only is that where the Bishop brothers come to roost when circumstances draw them back to the USA, it has at least a couple steadily gigging ensembles whose are kindred spirits. Up in Portland OR there’s Alto, who have personalized things with a heavier rhythmic approach, and in Sacramento CA there’s Swimming In Bengal.

Swimming In Bengal is Jed Brewer (gourd guitar), Rusi Gustafson (percussion), and Tony Passarell (kalimba, harmonium, saxophones, percussion). It would be oversimplifying to suggest that they are Sun City Girl descendants. Passarell, who plays in other combos devoted to select divisions of the jazz spectrum, was an associate of John Tchicai during the Danish-Congolese saxophonist’s decade-long residence in Davis, California, and the blend of USA-devised improvisational methodology and pan-global rhythms took up several pages in Tchicai’s playbook. And like Alto but unlike SCGs, Swimming In Bengal is all about the music; there’s no underlying assault on consensus reality, just the erosion by example of ethnocentric notions about what constitutes good music. But when Brewer coaxes oud-like tonalities from his guitar, there’s no denying that they’re kindred spirits.

“The Transmitter Is Jammed” opens the LP with a problem that’s not really a problem, for if you could only broadcast one thing to the world this tune would be an excellent choice. Brewer’s lines rise like burned incense fumes from a platform of droning harmonium, suggesting a far Eastern locale, while the metallic percussion proposes an alternate geographic locus somewhere in the Rif mountains. If you have problems with American musicians steeping themselves in the sounds of other cultures, you might already have clicked away to start writing that angry social media post. But if you accept that human modes of creation and expression land on the ears of other humans who then feel compelled to add a few twists before re-transmitting, the fine scent of these spiraling sonic fumes amply repay the choice to not touch that dial.

Having established some disparate geographical/aesthetic coordinates, the trio wastes little time before scrambling them. The fragmentary kalimba duet “Dwunk” teases with a whiff of Zimbabwe before blowing away on the breeze, and despite its nocturnal title “Night Squirrels” is drenched in the bright sunny surf spray of Dick Dale’s more Middle Eastern-rooted forays. And on “Breathe In, Breath Ouch,” Passarell’s bamboo flute, Brewer’s sitar-like strumming and an unwavering djembe groove propose a more frankly psychedelic take on Don Cherry’s one world-isms. Whenever the music zeroes in on string and percussion exchanges, the quality remains high. The only missteps occur when Passarell opts for a too-soft saxophone tone, which dampens the music where a little more heat would do. But those moments pass quickly, and even the co-existence of great and not-quite-so-great sounds becomes a transmission of hope in a time of rising xenophobia.

Bill Meyer



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