Is Carla Bley a Naive artist? The commercial exploitation of her works notwithstanding, one finds, in the simplicity and recurrence of themes; progressions and forms; and idiosyncratic styleas well as in the peculiar ponderous feel to much of her compositions, self-trained, instinctive approach to music-making and libertarian personalitymany of the same features found in Naive artistry.
While the unicity and originality of her music and longevity in a particularly tough milieu are to be applauded, broader audiences remain somewhat detached from her endeavors, kept afar by a seemingly uninterested attitude she has cultivated towards professional, career-building decisions. The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu, released on her boutique label, serves as a good example. After a lukewarm first encounter impressed by the excessive cocktail of quirky, "humoristic" song titles, graphics, liner notes and photos, one fortunately finds enough appealing music to gingerly overturn the unappetizing faux pas.
A sensitive arranger and bandleader with limited instrumental skills, Bley more than willingly yields the floor to fellow conspiratorstrumpeter Paolo Fresu, reedman Andy Sheppard and co-producer/bassist Steve Swallowwhen the time comes to ruffle an otherwise relaxed set (drummer Billy Drummond is here in a merely supportive role). On "The Banana Quintet," the group's graceful sway through the suite's six sections attest of the sidemen's intimate knowledge and profound respect for Bley's truly personal compositional style and pacing.
Much like reactions towards Naive artworks, one either loves or hates Carla Bley's music. That being said, those that do support her diverse projects will probably find enjoyment in this hour of music.
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.
Paolo Fresu: trumpet, flugelhorn; Andy Sheppard: soprano and tenor saxophones; Carla Bley: piano; Steve Swallow: bass; Billy Drummond: drums.
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