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Fredrik Ljungkvist & Mattias Risberg: And Now the Queen - A Tribute to Carla Bley

Karl Ackermann By

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Carla Bley's compositions have been recorded by a seemingly endless list of artists including Jaco Pastorius, Arturo O'Farrill, Eberhard Weber, Jan Garbarek, Jimmy Giuffre and extensively by her former husband, the late Paul Bley. She has been revolutionary in the scope of her work which has run from the jazz opera Escalator Over the Hill (JCOA Records, 1971) to the politically influenced Liberation Music Orchestra led by Charlie Haden. With the earlier release of Andando el Tiempo (ECM, 2016) with Steve Swallow and Andy Sheppard Bley marked her eightieth year. With And Now the Queen -A Tribute to Carla Bley, a broad spectrum of Bley's work is given a fresh run.

Reed player Fredrik Ljungkvist and keyboardist Mattias Risberg bring an unusually full sound to their duo arrangements of Bley's songs. Ljungkvist has worked with Ken Vandermark, Mats Gustafsson and Bobo Stenson and leads a shifting-formation collective, Yun Kan. Risberg—a member of that collective—has worked with Ljungkvist regularly over the past ten years. Vocalist and composer Lina Nyberg adds her voice to the closing track of And Now the Queen; she is the founder of the host label, Lilalo Records, and is the spouse of Ljungkvist.

Ljungkvist and Risberg sourced their material across decades of Bley compositions dating back to the mid-60s. The album opens with two separate versions of the title track, recorded by the Paul Bley Trio on Closer (ESP/Disk, 1965). "And Now the Queen, I" is reasonably aligned with the 1965 version while the second account is a more inventive reading, departing from the original theme with freer improvisations. Similarly, "Calls" capitalizes on Bley's blending of the melodic and polyrhythmic elements of composition. The often covered "Ida Lupino" manages to retain the beauty of the original with the idiosyncratic digressions of Ljungkvist's tenor sax.

The post-bop / avant-garde hybrid treatment of "Donkey I" is given a frenetic solo saxophone treatment while "Donkey II" has Ljungkvist moving to clarinet and Risberg striking out rapid and decisive accents. "Sing Me Softly of the Blues," a frequently recorded Bley tune, is handled in a mostly straight-forward but nonetheless appealing manner here. "Ictus," "Lawns" and "Syndrome" are more opened up to the harmonic inventions of Ljungkvist and Risberg; more avant-garde than free jazz, these tunes play on the serpentine lines just below Bley's surface. The album closes with Nyberg's beautifully rendered vocal version of "Vila (Jesus Maria)," from the original Jimmy Giuffre 3 "Jesus Maria."

And Now the Queen -A Tribute to Carla Bley is a superb acknowledgement of Bley the composer. At times the interpretations of Ljungkvist and Risberg are unembellished, but vibrant in their own right. But the duo also is capable of creating a unique and elegant landscape with new panoramas. In either case, one can hear the structures of Bley underlying the permutations of Ljungkvist and Risberg's own abstract melodic logic. A fine compliment to one of the great composers of our time.

Track Listing: And Now the Queen I; And Now the Queen II; Calls; Ida Lupino; Donkey I; Donkey II; Sing Me Softly of the Blues; Ictus; Lawns; Syndrome; Vila (Jesus Maria).

Personnel: Fredrik Ljungkvist: soprano, alto, tenor saxophones, clarinet; Mattias Risberg: piano, mellotron, arp pro soloist, moog taurus; Lina Nyberg: vocal (11).

Title: And Now the Queen - A Tribute to Carla Bley | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Lilalo Records

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