Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

7

Carla Bley / Andy Sheppard / Steve Swallow: Trios

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
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 Live at Pyatt Hall CD/LP/Track Review Live at Pyatt Hall
by Jack Bowers
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Flying Heart CD/LP/Track Review Flying Heart
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 23, 2018
Read The 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow CD/LP/Track Review The 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow
by John Sharpe
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Solano Canyon CD/LP/Track Review Solano Canyon
by Glenn Astarita
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Lucas CD/LP/Track Review Lucas
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: January 22, 2018
Read In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording CD/LP/Track Review In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 22, 2018
Read "Resonance" CD/LP/Track Review Resonance
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 23, 2017
Read "The Behemoth" CD/LP/Track Review The Behemoth
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 9, 2017
Read "Codex" CD/LP/Track Review Codex
by Doug Collette
Published: December 3, 2017
Read "Err Guitar" CD/LP/Track Review Err Guitar
by Don Phipps
Published: December 4, 2017
Read "Ballet: The Music Of Michael Gibbs" CD/LP/Track Review Ballet: The Music Of Michael Gibbs
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 23, 2017
Read "Falling Forward" CD/LP/Track Review Falling Forward
by James Nadal
Published: July 27, 2017