Pianist / composer Carla Bley
is an inspiring woman. Pianist Paul Bley
was inspired to marry her, and record a full album of her compositions: Barrage
(ESP-Disk, 1965), in addition to including four of her originals on Open, To Love
(ECM Records, 1973). George Russell
included her "Bent Eagle" on his Stratusfunk
(Riverside Records, 1960). Jimmy Giuffre
presented his version of her "Ictus" on his album Thesis
(Verve, 1961). And if these examples date the influence of Carla Bley, consider Finnish pianist Iro Haarla
's Around Again: The Music Of Carla Bley
(TUM Records, 2019), often cited as a top album of the year.
It is said of Carla Bley that she considers herself one percent pianist, ninety-nine percent composer. Even taking at her word, she has still, through the first two decades of the twentieth-first century, maintained a successful career as a pianist /composer / bandleader, with album releases like Andando El Tiempo
(ECM Records, 2014) and Trios
(ECM Records, 2013), Carla's Christmas Carols
(Watt, 2009), Carla Bley And Her Remarkable Big Band
(Watt, 2008), The Lost Chords Find Paulo Fresu
(Watt, 2007) and many more. Not bad for a one percent pianist. Life Goes On
is the third in a sequence of albums that began with the previously mentioned Trios
, followed up by Andando El Tiempo
(also previously cited). All three feature Bley on piano with her long standing trio matesbassist Steve Swallow
and saxophonist Andy Sheppard
. The compositions presented hereall from Bley's penare spare and without frillsnothing fancy about them. They are spacious and seemingly simple, coming out of a lifetime of musical expression. And they are simply beautiful.
The music takes the form of three suites, beginning with the four-part title suite. Written while Bley was recovering from illness, the music has an optimistic, even at times a whimsical feel to ita measured and wise whimsey drawn from eight decades of living. The "Beautiful Telephones" suite, in three parts, was inspired by a quote from a certain President of the United States. The sound is sorrowful and, shot through with resiliencea necessity in dealing with the man who noted the beautiful telephonesand it changes with the vagaries of the moment, like the attention span of the protagonist.
The three part "Copycat" suite closes the disc. The opening section, "After You," is melancholic yet serene, a conversation amongst the instrumentalists. Part two, the brief "Follow The Leader," is jaunty and full of vigor, the closing "Copycat" section features the players chasing each other around, in the best of humor, on this excellent work of chamber jazz from Carla Bley.