Consisting of Americans Mazz Swift (violin) and Tomeka Reid (cello) and Italian double bassist Silvia Bolognesi, the contemporary string trio Hear in Now infuse classical forms with jazz sensibilities. Collectively, the trio’s resume of projects include work with Anthony Braxton, Whitney Houston, D’ Angelo, Roscoe Mitchell, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Butch Morris, and William Parker in addition to respected solo work from all three members. Their latest project Not Living in Fear forges a unique bridge between ideas, emotions, localities and styles as well as the past and the present.
Opening with “Impro 3” Swift’s violin is soaring and lyrical, flying in from all angles against Bolognesi’s freely searching bass and Reid’s full bodied yet abstracted counterpoint. The track opens with the sound of a cell door slamming and chains rattling, augmenting the tune’s tense, unnerving atmosphere. More than anything, the piece explores a mood that wouldn’t be out of place as the score of a horror film set in the antebellum South. “Leaving Livorno” is a short, solemn chamber piece that flows perfectly into the sweetly optimistic plucked strings and shuffling percussion of “Transiti”, a piece that introduces itself playfully, before expanding outward, revealing a much more sinister and challenging tone. “Requiem for Charlie Haden” pays tribute to the famed jazz composer/bassist while showcasing Bolognesi’s rich, thunderous tone and authoritative command of the instrument.
Uniquely, Not Living in Fear manages to offer compositions that touch on the exploratory nature of improvised music while remaining rooted in the melodicism of more “traditional” or popular forms. “Circle” is an outstanding example of this thoughtful co-mixture. With it’s delicately plucked main melody and lumbering bass laying down the foundation, Swift works in a bittersweet counterpoint on violin that augments the piece’s melodic appeal. After the piece’s primary motif is established, Bolognessi launches into a kinetic but tasteful solo that suggests the influence of many free jazz bassists of the past.
The album’s title track is the emotional centerpiece of the project. The beautiful and deceptively simple vocal tune revolves around a rolling bass line and nuanced pizzicato strings. Renowned vocalist and AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) member Dee Alexander enters into the fold with powerful and sweetly sung lyrics that offer direct and inspiring life lessons: “Don’t be afraid, living in fear, it’s very clear that life throws a curveball … every now and then ….” These uplifting shards of light emerge in sharp contrast to the album’s darker, more tightly wound moments, creating a rich and balanced experience that fluidly moves between the oppositional dynamics of push and pull, light and dark, fear and love.