With “Blue York,” SwingSet pondered its move to New York and the angst of being geographically apart from each other. We had spent so much time playing together(in Jax,Fl) that the thought of moving to New York was disturbing. We had known, from early on, after a short period of time, that we worked well together. So when Milan and I moved to New York in 1995, Vince moved the following year. Greg and Roy moved to New York in 2001.
“It’s This or That” is about making changes that shape your life, making a decision and not looking back. After seven years, we are all here safe and sound. Some of the dedication to continue to work as a group is based in the “Nucleus” of the group; Roy, Milan and I. In 1994, we asked Greg and Vince to join us in our pursuit of defining the art of jazz. Our musical personalities are so much a like that during the period we were not performing together, our musical conception remains intact. Compositionally, we all admire Monk because his melodies are catchy and blues driven. “Like Monk is written with the reverence for the composer in this particular way of being traditional and futuristic at the same time. And Maher, the owner of Cleopatra, is a big fan of Monk, as well. He would play Monk tunes at the end of most jam sessions. He always had a smile on his face while listening to Monk. I love him for that because Monk does the same for us. We also like to play compositions by Wayne Shorter. “Night Dreamer” works well with the instrumentation of trombone and sax. The melody lends itself to allowing the horns to show off their individuality while showing off the knowledge of chord changes. Sucre'(sugar) is a composition written to describe the sweetness of a woman. Vince and Milan’s intonation are near perfect in this arrangement.
The last song Monk’s “Let’s Call This,” features a guest appearance by Marsalis recorded live at Cleo’s. We first me Marsalis in 1994, when he brought his band to Jacksonville, Fl. After the concert I asked if he would come by the Omni Hotel to sit in with us. He did, and we played all night long. Although, at the time, we were just learning how to play jazz, he encouraged us to stick together and shed. That night inspired us to keep playing together. Marsalis is known for nurturing talent with encouraging words, his influence is felt just as a result of playing with him.
These selections are a reference point for SwingSet. They look back at what has happened even as they are looking forward, reinterpreting in our own voices what we’re seeing now. This documentation is for those of you who weren’t there on those two nights and for those of you who were, who wouldn’t mind hearing us say it again.
-Robert M. Rucker