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Iro Haarla, Ulf Krokfors & Barry Altschul: Around Again: The Music Of Carla Bley

Dan McClenaghan By

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At one time the Finnish pianist/harpist/composer Iro Haarla was best known as a collaborator of drummer Edward Vesala (1945-1999). Her own career blossomed in the new millennium, beginning with Penguin Beguine (TUM Records, 2005) followed by multiple releases on ECM and TUM Records, including Northbound (ECM, 2006), Vespers (ECM, 2011), Kirkastus (TUM, 2014), a daring duo outing with saxophonist Juhani Aaltonen, and a majestic orchestral outing, Ante Lucem (ECM, 2016), that didn't seem to get nearly the recognition it deserved.

On Around Again: The Music of Carla Bley Haarla has convened a superb piano trio, featuring her long time collaborator, bassist Ulf Krokfors, and a new teammate, drummer Barry Altschul, who played in the early 1960s in the Paul Bley piano trio, interpreting many of the compelling and uncommon compositions of Carla Bley.

In some ways, Haarla and Carla Bley seem to fit into the kindred souls groove. Both came to positions of prominence and distinction in an art form that was mostly a man's world; both spent time as jazz artists in the shadows of men—though in part perhaps by choice: Bley has always been more concentrated on composition over performance, and Paul Bley garnered maybe more attention than she for his renditions of her tunes; while Haarla began as a supporter of Vesala's star before her own began to rise brightly over the horizon. And both write enchantingly amorphous compositions.

The music presented here by Iro Haarla and her trio is from Carla Bley's early songbook. Four of the tunes are taken from Paul Bley's Closer (ESP-Disk, 1965). The music is supremely melodic—though not in a walking-away-whistling-the-tune fashion, but more in a loosely-structured, roaming with-no-destination-in-mind way. "Ida Lupino," one of Carla Bley's most covered compositions, sounds like a solemn prayer. "Closer" feels like a soundtrack to film about loss and confusion. "And Now, The Queen" has a restrained and patient celebratory mood. "Start" feels like a frantic search.

The trio dynamic, from start-to-finish, is superb, as interactive, as push-and-pull, elbow-each-other, dance-with-each-other as they come. It can be compared with the best of them.

The set's closer, "Jesus Maria," one of Carla Bley's earliest compositions, was recorded by the Jimmy Giuffre 3 on Fusion (Verve, 1961). It speaks here with a sense of a tranquility, a shaping of—with a soft sonic clay—a spiritually majestic mood.

Track Listing: Closer; Vashkar; Batterie; Ida Lupino; Around Again; Olhos De Gato; Intermission Music; King Korn; And Now, the Queen; Utviklingssang; Start; Jesus Maria.

Personnel: Iro Haarla: piano; Ulf Krokfors: bass; Barry Altschul: drums.

Title: Around Again: The Music Of Carla Bley | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: TUM Records

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