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Swept Away by Mary Ann McSweeney

Following up on her well-received earlier CD, Thoughts Of You, which brought attention to her skills as a bassist and composer, Mary Ann McSweeney has incorporated a multitude of cultural and musical influences on Swept Away, signifying that she has much to say.... and much more to say on future releases. For the first time, McSweeney has invited Nana Simopoulos to play sitar and tanpura on two of her tunes, which provide East Indian allusions, McSweeney’s arcoed bass singing the melody in the upper register, as if a cello. With deliberation and spirituality, Simopoulos’ sitar underlays the tune with connectivity and atmosphere. On "Siva’s Moon Dance," Mike Hyman’s percussion animates the tune as guitarist John Hart falls into the groove of the syncopated rhythm, Donny McCaslin playing the insinuating melody on soprano sax for full effect of rising intensity.

McSweeney refers to Edvard Grieg’s "Notturno" as well, a piece she learned on piano but which instilled itself in her as a recurring theme. Now, McSweeney has created her own arrangement, which involves Kate McGarry singing wordlessly over McSweeney’s performance of the haunting melody.

However, Swept Away is anything but an intentional cross-section of cultural influences. Rather, McSweeney has recorded tunes that reflect her personal interests throughout her career, first in Los Angeles under the tutelage of Ray Brown and then in New York City, where she met husband Mike Fahn, who appears once more on her CD.

In fact, the core group playing on Swept Away consists of the same musicians from Thoughts Of You, and McCaslin and Fahn in particular add unique voices to the proceedings. On "Journey To The Center," for example, McCaslin’s contribution adds depth and feeling, as Fahn responds at a lower volume to McCaslin’s thoughts in the cadenza. Then, Fahn shows once again the potential of the valve trombone as he rips through his solo of lines and color on "Soon," soon after delivering the melody in a mellow tone.

If anything, Mary Ann McSweeney’s latest release proves that she is full of ideas and that listeners can expect the unexpected from her, due to her absorption of influences as her career progresses. With a short supply of bassists leading jazz groups, McSweeney is a refreshing and provocative musician who deserves close attention in the future.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Mary Ann McSweeney
  • CD Title: Swept Away
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Sparky1 Productions
  • Tracks: Journey To The Center, Atheada, Siva’s Moon Dance, From The Other Side, Notturno, The Burner, Swept Away, Soon
  • Musicians: Mary Ann McSweeney (bass); Donny McCaslin (tenor & soprano saxophone); Mike Fahn (trombone); Henry Hey (piano); John Hart (guitar); Tim Horner, Mike Hyman (drums); Kate McGarry (vocals); Nana Simopoulos (sitar, tanpura)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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