416

Carla Bley: The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Carla Bley: The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu Once Carla Bley finds musicians she likes, she sticks with them. Bassist Steve Swallow, also Bley's life partner, dates back with the pianist/composer/bandleader to Musique Mecanique (WATT, 1979). Saxophonist Andy Sheppard first appeared on Bley's classic Fleur Carnivore (WATT, 1989). She's recorded with both on the trio Songs with Legs (WATT, 1995), but it was on The Lost Chords (WATT, 2004), with relative newcomer Billy Drummond on drums, that they best gelled as a small ensemble.



Despite her undeniable loyalty, Bley is never one to stick with the status quo. So, rather than releasing another quartet disc, at the advice of Sheppard she sought out Paolo Fresu—surely the greatest trumpeter to emerge from Italy since Enrico Rava—for The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu. The result is an album that's even better than its predecessor, and may well be Bley's finest small ensemble recording with a conventional rhythm section to date.



Bley's dry wit—another enduring characteristic—remains intact; one need only look at the titles to her six-part "Banana Quintet. But the suite's opener, "One Banana, is a poignantly lyrical ballad that's largely a feature for Fresu, and one of Bley's most strikingly beautiful tunes since "Utviklingssang from Social Studies (WATT, 1981). Fresu's tone and careful choice of notes is as methodical as the writing but, like Bley, feels no less spontaneous, and he meshes with Sheppard in a way that's rare, even for the often-used saxophone/trumpet frontline.



"Two Banana possesses a slow groove that builds through Sheppard's powerful tenor solo, Swallow locked-in with Drummond's potent backbeat, only to pare back and begin again during Fresu's equally ebullient solo. Bley's never been virtuosic in her approach—choosing, instead, a sparer and, at times, quirky idiosyncrasy on the mid-tempo swing of "Three Banana, as both accompanist and soloist. Drummond gets a chance to develop an increasingly intense solo over a piano/bass ostinato on "Four, a tune referencing the dark arpeggios of "I Want You (She's So Heavy), from The Beatles' Abbey Road (Capitol, 1969).



There are plenty of stylistic references, albeit refracted through Bley's personal prism. The light Latin pulse of "Five Banana is tempered by a melancholy melodism not unlike trumpeter Kenny Wheeler's, but with an expansive feel demonstrative of Bley's wonderful voicings for this quintet. It also belies its more complex five-beats-to-the-bar/five-measure cycle. "One Banana More is a brief, through-composed coda that brings the "Banana Quintet to a gentle close, setting the stage for "Liver of Life, another mid-tempo swinger whose change-heavy structure provides plenty of grist for Fresu, Sheppard and Bley. As ever, economy, without sacrificing emotion, is the definer here.



Swallow's clear and warm electric bass sets the tone for "Death of Superman/Dream Sequence#1—Flying, his approach to soloing and accompaniment the compelling reason why he's been Bley's bassist of choice for nearly thirty years. The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu finds Bley at her most elegant compositionally; but with a certain je ne sais quoi that still injects subtle levity. Beautiful.

Track Listing: The Banana Quintet: One Banana, Two Banana, Three Banana, Four, Five Banana, One Banana More; Liver of Life; Death of Superman/Dream Sequence #1--Flying; Ad Infinitum.

Personnel: Paolo Fresu: trumpet, flugelhorn; Andy Sheppard: soprano and tenor saxophones; Carla Bley: piano; Steve Swallow: bass; Billy Drummond: drums.

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Watt/ECM | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Rags And Roots CD/LP/Track Review Rags And Roots
by James Nadal
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Tangled CD/LP/Track Review Tangled
by Jack Bowers
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Is It Me...? CD/LP/Track Review Is It Me...?
by Edward Blanco
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Live CD/LP/Track Review Live
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: April 25, 2017
Read 14.11.2016 CD/LP/Track Review 14.11.2016
by Nicola Negri
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Malnoia CD/LP/Track Review Malnoia
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 24, 2017
Read "And to the Republic" CD/LP/Track Review And to the Republic
by Mark F. Turner
Published: October 12, 2016
Read "Istanbul Underground" CD/LP/Track Review Istanbul Underground
by James Nadal
Published: June 22, 2016
Read "Love For Sale" CD/LP/Track Review Love For Sale
by Geannine Reid
Published: June 23, 2016
Read "Echoes Of Europe" CD/LP/Track Review Echoes Of Europe
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 26, 2017
Read "Of Sound Mind" CD/LP/Track Review Of Sound Mind
by Budd Kopman
Published: September 30, 2016
Read "Live At The Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival" CD/LP/Track Review Live At The Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 3, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!