All Paths Lead to One
Mark Sweetman Quartet All paths lead to one; all roads lead to home. For drummer/composer Mark Sweetman, home is the East Coast of the United States, but the road that lead him here began in Canada, where he was born in 1960. Sweetman says that his hometown of Toronto was 'a jazz Mecca when I was growing up. In the midst of this incredibly beautiful environment, there was this jazz club called Bourbon Street, where all the best acts in the world would come - Art Pepper, Lee Konitz, Bill Evans, Chet Baker. I used to go down three or four times a week, and just live it.' While Mark was soaking up the jazz life, he got exposed to a side of music that was less about chord changes and technique,and more about feeling and spirituality. ''I got introduced to Sonny Greenwich, who was basically John Coltrane on guitar, as well as Tisziji Munoz, a kind of disciple of his. They were playing music that went outside and was so intense, so spiritual, that just hit it on the head for me. I loved the music of the older guys, but I'm not a bebopper - I'm more about the color, and texture.' Mark's muse led him to gather the musicians heard on his 1997 debut as a leader, Inspired. Significantly, these same musicians, with the exception of trumpeter John Swana, appear here, bringing contributions that are, if anything more focused and robust than on that impressive debut. 'These guys play from their hearts,' extols Sweetman. 'They're connected to their instruments. Mike Boone has a way of caressing his bass; he comes form a kind of Dave Holland approach, where he doesn't overplay. Ralph Bowen is magnificent - I think he is one of the most underrated sax players around. And some of the things pianist Dan Kleiman does - he just really vibes in to what is needed: he's not playing licks, he's playing sounds, and colors, that keep the music elevated.' John Swana is one of the most in-demand trumpet players on the scene right now, and his parts were specially conceived for several tracks here. 'John was a joy to work with ; I had caught his vibration around town, and I thought, 'I like this guy, he's part of his instrument.'' Fitting, because the music these men play here is tremendously organic: The title track anchored by a low drone reminiscent of the chanting of Buddhist monks, establishes a rhythm like that of breathing-in, out, letting air nourish the soul, the mind, and the body. It sidles into it's groove with the sexily insinuating charm of a new lover, Bowen's brawny tenor tracing it's contours with a bold, yet sensitive, hand. 'Can a Brother get a Ride' is Soul-Jazz cruising down two-lane blacktop, it's motoric groove stoked by Boone's R&B-ish bass ostinato. The tense bass solo that opens 'Awakening' heralds a circuitous melodic theme, reminding us that rebirth into awareness often comes after much searching; John Swana's expert trumpet solo is a virtual essay in how the Jazz language, born in swing meter, now encompasses an emotional range that can easily be referred to as devotional. 'Inner Meditation' is Sweetman alone at the drums, in perfect distillation of the idea of tranquility at the heart of heated activity. Sweetman: 'For me, the cymbal sounds are like the sky, the bass drum is like the heart of the earth, and the drums themselves are the mountains. When the tranquil center within the tumult is found, and maintained, the result is 'Exaltation.'' 'This is That:' there is nothing without it's opposite, no peace without turmoil, no calm without storm. This cyclonic quality is found in tracks like 'Awakening,' where the quietly escalating melody sits atop Sweetman's roiling drum work, and Kleiman's dramatically pumping pianistics. It's found in the richly-burnished post-bop of 'Nothing Seems As It Is:' which is stoked by Sweetman's urgent rumbles, and Bowen's set-the-controls-for-the-heart-of-the-sun tenor saxophone. The tender ballad, 'Cole,' was named after Sweetman's two year-old son. Bowen essays the heartfelt composition with rapturous sensitivity. In a truly 'Out of the mouths of babes' moment Cole Sweetman also provided the title for 'This is That.' 'It was one of the first things out of my son's mouth,' says Sweetman, who immediately began to formulated the three-note melodic kernel around which the tune is based. All Paths Lead to One: There is tremendous comfort in this music, a comfort that bespeaks the presence of strength, of a force that is capable of instilling innerpeace, because one senses that it has withstood the rigors of battle. 'The pure love and heart,' is what Sweetman calls the One. It is now up to you, the lucky listener, to find your own definition, your own path, in this extraordinary music.