Carla Bley/Andy Sheppard/Steve Swallow – Trios

trios(ECM 372 4551)

The composer/pianist Carla Bley, the saxophonist Andy Sheppard and the electric bassist Steve Swallow, three musicians who know each other’s playing so intimately that they are not only thoroughly integrated technically but in mood, too.

I would guess that mood is determined by Bley – her’s is a very specific but multi-layered frame of mind, at once deadly serious and wryly humorous, both quite determined and yet flexible, complicated yet simple, deeply thought through yet lightly stepping. While all those elements are here, there is less of the humour and the anarchy.

Carla explains: “A lot of my albums have a sense of things being about to fall apart. But the personality of this record is quite serious. It is also rather nostalgic.”

shepbleyswaIt opens with a real Bley classic, Utviklingssang, from her 1981 release Social Studies. Here, as then, the melody is first held by Swallow, but now he passes it on to Sheppard (it was Tony Dagradi back then). And it’s just as lovely now in stripped down form as it was then with a full nine-piece band.

Vashkar goes back even further, to 1963 and an album by Carla’s then husband, Paul.

Les Trois Lagons takes its title from some of Henri Matisse’s book of cut-outs called Jazz. And it has that simple brilliance of line that the cut-outs have. There is also some Monk in Bley’s playing, especially in the intro.

The three-part Wildlife from the 1985 Night-Glo album and The Girl Who Cried Champagne from ’86’s Septet show just how strong and flexible these compositions are, adapted here to very different instrumentation.

All are beautifully played, the three instruments joined in harmony, gently rising into solos and then reintegrating in a fresh three-way pattern; the sound in the Lugano studio is superb.

  • This Trio is currently touring Europe and comes to the Wigmore Hall in London on 24 November as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival. You can book here.

Categories: CD review

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2 replies

  1. It is hard to tell from the review whether you recommend this CD or whether it will make your list of the top 50 for the year. I have thought about getting the CD. I really like the Carla Bley tune “Silent Spring” on Gary Burton’s Ring (1974).


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