All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Must Hear Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Carla Bley's Lost Chords at Yoshi's


Sign in to view read count
Carla Bley
Oakland, CA
September 14, 2005

Last 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 fingers, like the wings and talons of a small eagle. I continued listening as he softly introduced the next tune with those fluttering wing-hands. Hmm, interesting bottom vamp, I thought.

Proceding on to a Monkish-sounding tune I was next struck at how Andy Sheppard managed to sound like Stan Getz, while maintaining a totally original style and unique phrasing. He even—impossibly—effortlessly managed what sounded like double stops on his horn. "This may not be so bad after all , I reflected.

When Carla Bley rose to introduce the next piece, her "Valse Sinistre , I was struck by her wraithlike appearance. She has a slight, bone-thin frame atop which sits a perfectly straight mop of mid-neck length platinum blond straw hair. She looks like a Beardsley conception of an uptown beatnik scarecrow come to life. She is quite pretty, and, attired in smart-casual black like the others, has a hip and formidable presentation. This piece is a very swinging, but weird waltz, one that is transporting me. I suddenly catch a pervasive aroma of fresh Darjeeling tea, but strangely feel like a knight in Tunisia. Oh my, somethin's goin' on and I don' know what it is...wait, yes I do! It's Bley's chords, they're otherworldy and highly evocative. She plays the most cosmic arpeggios I've ever heard. Who is this creature? Somehow the band is swinging hard, but the flame is turned down to a one. This is one fine low, slow burn. There is plenty of space in this music. Both the bass and drums are used more as punctuation than as motif. Any of them could roll a smoke between their notes. They are all quintessentially relaxed. There are times when Swallow plays his bass as if he were tapping upward on the bottom of a bowl·or a chekere. Billy Drummoind is like a pair of ears attached to sticks; he often plays orthogonally on the edges of his cymbals, getting a sweet, eerie, soft, beautiful sound that interweaves magically with the ensemble.

The next tune is some kind of an avant-fatback, soft, but with chitlins askew like they was hidin' under gravy, but still kickin' the time. (Now I am fanatic about this band—you just naturally like these unpretentious people—but still I wonder what planet are they from? They are like nothing I've ever heard.) This is followed by an impressionist version of "Three Blind Mice . During the soprano solo, not only does Sheppard beautifully and artfully execute flowing sheets of sound, he also masterfully employs circular breathing to reach the solo's climax: a continous flow of sound for over two minutes!

The setting is drawing to a conclusion and I am feeling the presence of Thelonious Monk's quartet in the room. And wouldn't you know it, Ms. Bley (afterwards) said she must have picked up my thought, because the finale was an incredibly unique arrangement of Thelonious's "Misterioso , alternating rhythmic structure on the up and the down. After the set, another fan remarked exactly what I had written earlier in my notebook, "This was not a set, it was a concert . This rich, spacious, and incredibly textured music performed by consummate musicians is truly what music can and should be about. I am grateful to have been present.

Personnel: Carla Bley: piano and leader; Andy Sheppard: tenor and soprano sax; Steve Swallow: electric bass; Billy Drummond: drums


comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Carla Bley's Lost Chords at Yoshi's Must Hear Review
Carla Bley's Lost Chords at Yoshi's
by Roy Strassman
Published: September 28, 2005
Read Donald Byrd: Kofi Must Hear Review
Donald Byrd: Kofi
by John Ballon
Published: November 4, 2003
Read Charles Lloyd: Forest Flower Must Hear Review
Charles Lloyd: Forest Flower
by John Ballon
Published: November 2, 2003
Read Ray Barretto: Acid Must Hear Review
Ray Barretto: Acid
by John Ballon
Published: October 31, 2003
Read Charlie Parker: Jam Sessions Must Hear Review
Charlie Parker: Jam Sessions
by John Ballon
Published: October 29, 2003
Read Armstrong & Ellington: The Great Summit Must Hear Review
Armstrong & Ellington: The Great Summit
by John Ballon
Published: October 29, 2003
Read "Jan Zehrfeld: Heavy Jazz" Catching Up With Jan Zehrfeld: Heavy Jazz
by Phillip Woolever
Published: August 27, 2017
Read "The Art of Conduction" Book Reviews The Art of Conduction
by Riccardo Brazzale
Published: June 30, 2017
Read "David Lyttle & Andreas Varady at Bennigans Jazz Club" Live Reviews David Lyttle & Andreas Varady at Bennigans Jazz Club
by Ian Patterson
Published: January 22, 2018
Read "A Selection of Jazz on Sonorama" Multiple Reviews A Selection of Jazz on Sonorama
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: March 18, 2018
Read "Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2017" Live Reviews Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2017
by Nick Davies
Published: May 13, 2017
Read "Denys Baptiste: Making the Late Trane Accessible" Profiles Denys Baptiste: Making the Late Trane Accessible
by David Burke
Published: October 10, 2017