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Carla Bley's Trio at the Jazz Standard

Akinfe Fatou By

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Carla Bley's Trio
Jazz Standard
New York, NY
March 19, 2019

Carla Bley is extraordinary, savvy, and enigmatic. The Guggenheim Fellow (1972), German Jazz Trophy winner ("A Life of Jazz"—2009), 5-time GRAMMY-nominee and NEA Jazz Master (2015) was joined by her spouse Steve Swallow on electric bass and Andy Sheppard on saxophone at the Jazz Standard for an evening of transfigurations, reinvigorated ensembles, and recherche improvisations underscored by fascinating idiosyncracies.

A renowned bandleader, writer, composer, organist and pianist, Bley is as fearless as ever—constantly stepping outside of conventions with thought-provoking runs and fills amidst brief intervals of surging rhythmic phrases. The way the bass blends into cascading piano chords and the saxophone encircles progressions, the inner workings of her trio are lavishly textured and indelible. Swallow and Sheppard's contributions are the perfect complement to Bley's defining sound.

The trio's show at the Jazz Standard was completely sold out with just enough leeway for waitstaff to advance through the narrow aisles. A room full of zealous listeners that seemed to have a longstanding affinity for Bley's work followed each song with high approbation and applause. The audience was particularly moved by "Wildlife," with Bley leaning in toward the piano frame and her hair falling over the keys. The scene felt like portraiture, as she'd made such a gesture in so many of her classic performances over the years. Several other standouts from the setlist included beautiful renderings of "Utviklingssang" and "Vashkar."

Revered for her big band scores Carla Bley was a force in the 1960's free jazz movement. She is also recognized for her iconic performance at the Kansas City Women's Jazz Festival. The first ever revolutionary women's jazz festival was founded by pioneers Carol Comer and Dianne Gregg in 1978 to highlight women Jazz musicians.

Bley is the co-founder of WATT (1973), an affiliate label distributed by ECM Records that she started with Michael Mantler. She released Trios on ECM Records in 2013 and revisited songs from the album with a new take at the Jazz Standard. Trios is still an essentiality and the compositions are perceptible and immersive.

Carla Bley's career spans more than 40 years of innovation and brilliance. Through all of her incredible evolutions she continues to reinvent her radical avant-garde sound, maintaining a refreshing tradition of originality, velocity, and timelessness.


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