7

Carla Bley / Andy Sheppard / Steve Swallow: Trios

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Carla Bley / Andy Sheppard / Steve Swallow: Trios In a career more defined by memorable compositions than instrumental acumen, it's easy to forget that Carla Bley may not be the most virtuosic pianist on the planet, but she's a far more than capable one, as evidenced on duo recordings like Are We There Yet? (Watt, 1999), with life partner/bassist Steve Swallow, and Songs With Legs (WATT, 1995), a trio date with longtime collaborator, saxophonist Andy Sheppard—also heard in Bley's larger ensemble of Appearing Nightly (Watt/ECM, 2008) and quartet session, The Lost Chords (Watt/ECM, 2004). On Swallow's recent Into the Woodwork (XtraWATT/ECM, 2013), Bley proved a clever, quirky and comedic organist; with Trios—an album that, perhaps for the first time ever, features absolutely no new compositions—Bley reunites the Songs With Legs trio, refocusing attention on her thoughtful, precise piano work.

That's not to suggest there isn't still a clever compositional mind at work in these fresh, intimate arrangements of music ranging from Bley's elegiac "Utviklingssang," her most-recorded ballad that first appeared on Social Studies (Watt, 1981), to lesser-known but still previously recorded suites including "The Girl Who Cried Champagne," from the aptly titled Sextet (Watt, 1987) and "Wildlife," heard for the first time on the larger ensemble session Night-Glo (Watt, 1986). Only the dark-hued "Vashkar"—one of Bley's most well-known tunes, having appeared on Tony Williams' fusion classic Lifetime (Polydor, 1969) and, most recently, on John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana's Invitation to Illumination: Live at Montreux 2011 (Eagle Vision, 2013)—is played on record by Bley for the first time.

Driven by Swallow's superb time—all the more essential to a group's without a drummer—Bley's reading of "Vashkar" opens with the pair exploring its mid-eastern modality for a full ninety second before Sheppard comes in, on soprano, to double its memorable yet quirky melody with Bley's right hand. Sheppard's star has been on the ascendancy for years, but most recently on the superb Trio Libre (ECM, 2012), his second recording as a leader for the label. Here, he demonstrates the same kind of care-ridden patience, his solo reflecting a trio whose ears are wide open, meticulously responding to each others' every move. Even as they adhere to the song's form, there's the sense that were this to be immediately followed by another take, it would be an entirely different experience.

Swallow introduces "Utviklingssang" alone, its haunting melody soon joined by Bley, whose thoughtful introduction of a contrapuntal theme and spartan supporting chords yield to sparer accompaniment still when Sheppard finally enters. While time is something to which the trio adheres carefully when required—Swallow's inimitable swing fundamental to the first section of "Les Trois Lagons (d'après Henri Matisse)"—Trios' ultimate beauty is in the interpretive nuances that allow time to be ever-so-slightly pliant—subtly stretched and compressed to imbue these five pieces with their own personalities.

The balance of the program consists of longer, multipart compositions, but remains underscored by the same attention to detail. Without muss or fuss, Bley, Swallow and Sheppard have, with Trios, created that most perfect of chamber records, filled with shrewd surprises and a delicate dramaturgy that reveals itself further with each and every listen.

Track Listing: Utviklingssang; Vashkar; Les Trois Lagons (d'après Henri Matisse): Plate XVII, Plate XVIII, Plate XIX; Wildlife: Horns, Paws Without Claws, Sex With Birds; The Girl Who Cried Champagne: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Personnel: Carla Bley: piano; Andy Sheppard: tenor and soprano saxophones; Steve Swallow: bass.

Title: Trios | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: ECM Records


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Eleven Cages CD/LP/Track Review Eleven Cages
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Afro-Caribbean Mixtape CD/LP/Track Review Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
by Mark F. Turner
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Wake Up Call CD/LP/Track Review Wake Up Call
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 27, 2017
Read The Late Trane CD/LP/Track Review The Late Trane
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Developing Story CD/LP/Track Review Developing Story
by Edward Blanco
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall) CD/LP/Track Review Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall)
by Phil Barnes
Published: June 26, 2017
Read "Beatrice" CD/LP/Track Review Beatrice
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 13, 2017
Read "America's National Parks" CD/LP/Track Review America's National Parks
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 27, 2016
Read "2nd Thoughts" CD/LP/Track Review 2nd Thoughts
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 8, 2017
Read "Evolution - Seeds and Streams" CD/LP/Track Review Evolution - Seeds and Streams
by Phil Barnes
Published: December 19, 2016
Read "Think Ahead" CD/LP/Track Review Think Ahead
by Geannine Reid
Published: June 2, 2017
Read "America's National Parks" CD/LP/Track Review America's National Parks
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 6, 2016

Smart Advertising!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.