Yeah, those duo discs with Steve Swallow and Carla Bley are nice, but give me a large ensemble and some Carla originals and then you’ve really got something. 4 x 4 surely is something else, perhaps Bley’s best and most charming work of the past several years. So, what’s with the title? Well, here’s the premise: pick four horns to put in front of a rhythm section of Bley on piano, Larry Goldings at the organ, Steve Swallow on bass, and Victor Lewis on drums (another foursome, right?).
Cutting to the chase, my favorite of the lot is “Sidewinders in Paradise,” complete with flute, muted trumpets and Goldings’ upper register work. Things are so chipper and cloying, right down to Lew Soloff’s quote of “Stranger in Paradise” which openly spoofs the song’s title, that you might find yourself wondering if they mistakenly threw in a track from one of those Lounge music compilations. “Blues in 12 Bars” gets right to the funk, Goldings again playing an integral role and Gary Valente’s shouting trombone taking us back to the days of Ray Anderson’s Slickaphonics. With that brazen sense of humor that is part and parcel of the Bley persona, “Baseball” takes as part of its witty melody the old stadium romp, “ta-da-da dat-da-da, charge it!”
With each of the five Bley originals inimitable in establishing its own personality, there’s something here to please everyone and the solo space is liberally spread among all the hands on deck. Not much more need be said except that I wouldn’t be surprised if this sleeper takes a prominent spot on a few reviewers’ lists of top recordings for 2000.
Track Listing: Blues in 12 Bars/More Blues in 12 Bars, Sidewinders in Paradise, Les Trois Lagons (d
Personnel: Carla Bley- piano and composer, Larry Goldings- organ, Steve Swallow- bass, Victor Lewis- drums, Lew Soloff- trumpet, Wolfgang Puschnig- alto saxophone, Andy Sheppard- tenor saxophone, Gary Valente- trombone