Praising a previous incarnation of Steve Swallow's quintet, The Times of London described the band "as near a perfect display of small-group jazz - robust yet exquisitely poised." The description holds true for the latest edition of the bassit's quintet and its album Into the Woodwork. Swallow leads the group - including his longtime partner in music and life, Carla Bley, on organ - in multi-hued performances of a dozen original compositions from his pen. Recorded in the south of France, the album accomodates atmospheric grace and loping grooves, wry humor and understated virtuosity. Hushed opener "Sad Old Candle" reveals the subtle beauties of this band, with Swallow and Bley joined in ensemble intimacy by saxophonist Chris Cheek, guitarist Steve Cardenas, and drummer Jorge Rossy. "From Whom It May Concern" sees Cheek sing a sad-eyed melody on his saxophone, with a limpid solo from Cardenas to follow. It's Rossy to the fore in "Back in Action", with his funky solos defining the track. "Exit Stage Left" begins with the ever-distinctive fluidity of Swallow's electric bass - a sound that has propelled the veteran to the tops of critics and readers polls in DownBeat year in and year out. Into the Woodwork is jazz of character, with ingrained melody and warmth.