Swift Fox, No Lazy Dog...

By passing a golf ball through an electron beam accelerator, you can increase its bounce potential by an average of 5%...but, of course, you knew that.

Now, take a natively skilled songwriter and guitarist who can play with percussive flair and visceral grace, add an inventive air-groove drummer and a trombone...(a what? Trombone?)... pass the sum through an energy maze of tonal sophistication and you've got a sound that well exceeds the average extra bounce of your standard doctored golf ball.

The Ben Swift Band, playing at the Tinker Street Cafe Friday, is a Boston-based rock trio anchored by a Philadelphian who broke in as a solo act around the Washington D.C. area (after attending Amherst College), opening for acts like Phish and Crash Test Dummies. Seeking to bolster what he perceived as soft spots in his musical regime, the self-taught Swift applied to the Berklee College of Music and received the first songwriting scholarship ever awarded by that prestigious institution. A Bostonian since then, Swift struck up a tuneful friendship with trombonist Dan Fox when the latter came in answer to some voice lesson ads run by the former about 3 years ago and stuck around to sit in on select gigs afterward.

Alright, guitar and trombone, and fer sure, even though variations of that particular horn go back at least into the Christopher Columbus era, ya gotta be thinking 'jazz group,' right? No, no. Fox has played with jazz and world beat groups to be certain-absolute but what he brings to the table here will hastily strike off whatever preconceived notions about the limitations of that instrument you hauled in here. Fox can tug a bassline, take a guitarist lick or an organ fill; all with that twist of brass and a mesh of circuitry adapted from a scrap heap discovered in the desert near Roswell in the 40's. Outside, it's sleek, you could say but, inside, it's robot pornography.

Okay, now we've got Swift and Fox on the same wavelength. The pair were looking for a bass player named Brown but found, instead, a tasteful, poly-rhythmic pounder who never comes across as a lazy dog on the bandstand, Scott Kessel. He rolls over, sits you up and shakes hands with your pulse. Between the three of them chocking rhythm-weave, you never miss the bassline.

A 30 minute, 8 song demo CD produced, recorded and engineered by Swift in his home studio (except for the drum tracks) could serve as a model of the kind of exquisite mix you're now able to achieve outside of a commercial studio with all of the proper ingredients, beginning specifically with the savvy and quality of ear of the principal musician. To a single, handled by Neil Young/ Don Henley/etc. producer Danny Kortchmar, called "Masking Tape", Swift adds his own production of seven diverse tracks that are a marvel of clarity and movement, highlighted by "Poughkeepsie," "Lemur," and "I Believe" as powered by Swift's throaty, expandable rasp. Since it was recorded before Kessel completed the present formation of the band last summer and a 16 track follow-up is on the way amidst some major label interest kicked up by this effort, the disk is sure to become a collector's item, so you might want to grab a copy at the gig.

Although their sound is cohesive, fresh and filled with experimental nuances, there are notable elements of a New Orleans, bayou-beat sort of sound, ala Anders Osbourne, in some of it and flashes of fellow Bostonian Peter Mulvey's distinctive playing and vocal delivery here and there. But, when queried, Swift responded with an "Anders whom?" and a speculation that "it's more like Peter and I had similar influences, like Michael Hedges or someone like that; people putting out a big sound on their own, covering the bass; really simulating a band as a solo act." Again, the New Orleans tints are far from dixieland, with Fox's processed horn rarely functioning in the conventional sense and stray gushes of warpspeed bluegrass drifting in among dark, sexy ballads and whisking churns of rockclad fervor. Syncopations sparked by a fondness for Neville Brothers, early Meters and other Big Easy bands, pass their flavor down the backstream.

The Ben Swift Band have played here twice before, both times to small, enthusiastic crowds braving mid-week nights in the dead of winter and leaving a residue of memorable sets to build on. Here's your chance to catch up to what the Ben Swift Band left those ice-hearty souls talking about... Stray notes; Another Boston act whose numerous Woodstock appearances have built a loyal following here, The Pushstars, have been signed by Capitol... Ex-Canadian and sometimes-Woodstock folk artist, Clayton Denwood, is a new daddy in Chatham, N.Y., of Eliot, whom he and Holly find "an inspiring presence." He's also circulating a powerful 16 minute, 3 song demo CD featuring "Sweetheart of the Wasteland." Recorded last year at a Manhattan studio with bassist Roger Mason; guitarists Steve Burge and Jon Schole; pianist, Lincoln Mayora; drummer, Barry Lazarowitz and mandolinist, Andy Statman, it's perplexing to find such stellar young performers as Denwood still fishing for a label connection....NYC alternative band, Life In A Blender, are slated for Thursday,

April 2nd, at Tinker Street Cafe to promote their new CD on Fang Records, Two Legs Bad. Built around the creative, odd, and changes-packed songs of creaky vocalist Don Ralph, they're featuring tunes like "Asshole From Menlo Park," which treats the tempestuous rivalry of Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, for starters. Sheep puppets and tennis ball-stuffed pantyhose are among items known to have shown up in their act. (Don't ask). This is punk groomed with spit and polish, with emphasis on the spit in a way that Saliva speaks to only freaks and leads them on their way...

-Irv Yarg