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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Carla Bley / Andy Sheppard / Steve Swallow: Trios

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In Lugano, Switzerland in 2012, pianist Carla Bley, saxophonist Andy Sheppard and bassist Steve Swallow were recorded, and the result is Trios (EMC 2013). This CD is atmospheric and energised. Included are new versions of Bley's original “Utviklingssang" ( “Development Song"), “Vashkar" and the suites “Les Trois Lagons" , “Wildlife," and “The Girl Who Cried Champagne." It marks Bley's departure from the ECM distributed WATT label which has been her platform for the past 40 years, and her first recording for ECM itself.“Utviklingssang" starts out with the simple, haunting melody played on guitar. This melody continues through the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Carla Bley / Andy Sheppard / Steve Swallow: Trios

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In a career more defined by memorable compositions than instrumental acumen, it's easy to forget that Carla Bley may not be the most virtuosic pianist on the planet, but she's a far more than capable one, as evidenced on duo recordings like Are We There Yet? (Watt, 1999), with life partner/bassist Steve Swallow, and Songs With Legs (WATT, 1995), a trio date with longtime collaborator, saxophonist Andy Sheppard--also heard in Bley's larger ensemble of Appearing Nightly (Watt/ECM, 2008) and quartet session, The Lost Chords (Watt/ECM, 2004). On Swallow's recent Into the Woodwork (XtraWATT/ECM, 2013), Bley proved a clever, quirky and ...

BOOK REVIEWS

Amy C. Beal: Carla Bley

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Carla Bley Amy C. Beal Softcover, 114 pages University of Illinois Press ISBN: 9780252078187 2011 Remarkably, this is the first detailed, published study of the career and music of Carla Bley, the distinguished composer, keyboardist, band leader and activist. It is the seventh volume in the University of Illinois' American Composers series, following studies of Lou Harrison, John Cage, Dudley Buck, William Grant Still, Rudolf Friml and Elliott Carter. It is ironic, but also gratifying, that Carla Bley has been published by a university press and that it is ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Carla Bley: Carla's Christmas Carols

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Carla's Christmas Carols? For many, the idea of their favorite jazz artist releasing an album of seasonal songs usually smells of crass commercialism or pure pandering, but leave it to pianist/composer/arranger Carla Bley to produce an album that's as reverentially in the spirit of the season as it gets, while being musically deep enough to fit within her substantial discography with complete relevance.

And it is reverential. Accompanied by longtime partner, bassist Steve Swallow, and the German Partyka Brass Quintet, Bley's contrapuntal arrangement of the opening “O Tannenbaum" begins literally and beautifully; if ever there was ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Carla Bley Big Band: Appearing Nightly

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Appearing Nightly conflates four of the most delightful things in the world--being in a jazz club with white tablecloths and a martini listening to live music played but a few feet away, a big band cooking on stage, the music being played harkening back to jazz of the 1950s, and finally that music refracted through the mind of the inimitable pianist and composer Carla Bley. Anyone who was lucky enough to hear some of this music in a quartet setting at Bley's Song With Legs gig at Birdland in New York City in April, 2008 should find ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Carla Bley Big Band: Appearing Nightly

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It's been five years since Carla Bley last worked with a big band on the politically motivated Looking for America (Watt, 2003). In the intervening years, the composer/bandleader has focused on small ensemble work with The Lost Chords (2004), and a follow-up encounter with trumpeter Paolo Fresu on The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu (2007), both on her own Watt label. Appearing Nightly has a more benign purpose than Looking for America--a warm look back at the social but sophisticated New York club scene of the 1950s, where Bley often worked as a cigarette or coat check girl, getting the ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Carla Bley Big Band: Appearing Nightly

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Carla Bley Big Band Appearing Nightly WATT 2008

Bandleader and musical provocateur Carla Bley is the Hector Berlioz of jazz. Her command of her large ensembles is complete and potent. Her composition, arrangement, and adaptation are intelligent with a sophisticated sense of humor. A superb pianist, Bley's true talent lies in her ability to define and then guide an orchestra through her arrangements without veering off into parts unknown. Her relationship with big bands is long lived, beginning in the late 1960s, including the recordings Looking For America (ECM, 2003), The Carla ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Songs With Legs: Carla Bley, Steve Swallow and Andy Sheppard At Birdland, NYC

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Carla Bley/Steve Swallow/Andy Sheppard at BirdlandBirdlandNew York City, New YorkApril 10, 2008 The Lost Chords is the name of the quartet led by pianist Carla Bley with her partner, bassist Steve Swallow, saxophonist Andy Sheppard and drummer Billy Drummond. The group has recorded The Lost Chords (Watt, 2004) and, with the addition of Italian trumpeter Paoloa Fresu, The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu (Watt, 2007). As a trio they've been performing since 1993 and recorded a live album entitled Songs With Legs (Watt, 1994) Since that recorded music was engaging and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Carla Bley: The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu

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Founded in 2003, Carla Bley's quartet The Lost Chords interprets her music with emotional depth and superior musicianship. By adding guest trumpeter Paolo Fresu for this session, she has stumbled on a formula that emphasizes camaraderie and spirit-sharing. The five artists fuse well together through blues, ballads, lyrical arias and the occasional ruckus. Far from predictable, Bley's music engulfs the band as if in a cozy den with fireplace and library, where the walls are covered with tapestries that tell stories. Quickly, they jump from one image to the next, seamlessly, without pause. Steve Swallow's bass guitar, Andy Sheppard's tenor ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Carla Bley: The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu

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Is Carla Bley a Naive artist? The commercial exploitation of her works notwithstanding, one finds, in the simplicity and recurrence of themes; progressions and forms; and idiosyncratic style--as well as in the peculiar ponderous feel to much of her compositions, self-trained, instinctive approach to music-making and libertarian personality--many of the same features found in Naive artistry.While the unicity and originality of her music and longevity in a particularly tough milieu are to be applauded, broader audiences remain somewhat detached from her endeavors, kept afar by a seemingly uninterested attitude she has cultivated towards professional, career-building decisions. The Lost ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Carla Bley: The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu

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On The Lost Chords Meet Paolo Fresu, Carla Bley has composed music for her quartet, plus the outstanding Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu that is just about the ideal mixture of beauty and intellect. It is almost scandalous to write about a recording and give away its secrets to the unsuspecting listener who, in an ideal world, would enjoy the point of the music much more by just putting it in the player and listening. To be sure, the notes speak directly to one of Bley's main attitudes: humor. It would be a mistake, however, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Carla Bley: The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu

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Once Carla Bley finds musicians she likes, she sticks with them. Bassist Steve Swallow, also Bley's life partner, dates back with the pianist/composer/bandleader to Musique Mecanique (WATT, 1979). Saxophonist Andy Sheppard first appeared on Bley's classic Fleur Carnivore (WATT, 1989). She's recorded with both on the trio Songs with Legs (WATT, 1995), but it was on The Lost Chords (WATT, 2004), with relative newcomer Billy Drummond on drums, that they best gelled as a small ensemble.

Despite her undeniable loyalty, Bley is never one to stick with the status quo. So, rather than releasing another quartet ...

MUST HEAR REVIEW

Carla Bley's Lost Chords at Yoshi's

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Carla Bley Yoshi's Oakland, CA September 14, 2005Last night I slid into Yoshi's a few minutes late and the band was called “out . With seemingly a stellar cast of musicians I was dismayed when the music began with what sounded like a hoaky, low-key bossa nova. I thought I was listening to yet a new category: Retirement Home jazz. I sat in my chagrin contemplating my next move, yet still paying attention. I noticed Steve Swallow's most unusual and grotesquely beautiful hands: long and slender palms with spread-eagled but quick nimble ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Carla Bley: The Lost Chords

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Pianist Carla Bley's supple Lost Chords quartet is a bit like a group of longtime dance partners--the individuals move in sure step together, but leave each other ample freedom to move. The musical result is an airy, spacious feel that doesn't sacrifice groove or drive.Far from being strangers, the four notes in this chord are quite familiar with each other. Joining Bley on piano is her longtime partner Steve Swallow (electric bass), Andy Sheppard (soprano and tenor sax), and Billy Drummond (drums). The quartet's eponymous album, a collection of Bley compositions, is a laid back and appealing live ...



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